France's Le Pen courts far right in Hungary, Poland

French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party leader Marine Le Pen reads a political pamphlet from Belgium's Flemish right-wing Vlaams Belang party during a press conference in Brussels on May 5, 2019.
French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party leader Marine Le Pen reads a political pamphlet from Belgium's Flemish right-wing Vlaams Belang party during a press conference in Brussels on May 5, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen reached out to her counterparts in Hungary and Poland, both already in government, during a European elections campaign meeting in Brussels.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party would be welcome in the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), a small right-wing European Parliament political grouping to which her National Rally belongs, she said.

Le Pen referred to the rift that has opened up between Orban and the much more influential conservative European People's Party (EPP) grouping in the European Parliament.

"It's for Mr Orban to see if he finds more political coherence with the members of the EPP who have voted against him," she said.

In March, the EPP suspended Fidesz indefinitely from the bloc after a billboard campaign in Hungary that suggested European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and liberal US billionaire George Soros were plotting to flood Europe with migrants.

Although the bloc had discussed the possibility of expelling Fidesz, it settled on suspension because of fears among some members that Orban might join forces with Italy's Matteo Salvini's far-right Northern League.

Last Tuesday Salvini, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister met Orban in Budapest for talks.

 

They agreed to cooperate more closely on anti-migration measures after the European elections. Both are hostile to the European Union's current line on migration.

Salvini has called on nationalist parties scattered across the European Parliament to join forces and form a new alliance after the election.

But in an interview with French weekly Le Point, Orban said he had no links to Le Pen and in any case would not make any alliance with her.

Le Pen, asked about her attitude to Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), said they were still welcome to join the ENF bloc.

Poland's PiS euro-MPs currently belong to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and views the close links that both Le Pen and Salvini have with Russia with suspicion.

Le Pen did not see that as a problem. "If Poland does not want closer relations with Russia, no one is forcing them to," she said.

"These differences, which can exist and are the product of history, mustn't prevent the possibility of the formation of this very large group," in the European Parliament after the elections, she added.

Le Pen was in Brussels to support the far-right Flemish Vlaams Belang party ahead of the elections to European Parliament at the end of this month.

Most of Europe's right-wing nationalists are currently divided across three blocs and a tangled web of alliances in the European Parliament.

Salvini is trying to form a new bloc, which he claims would be the largest in the 751-member parliament.