Europe’s political direction will tilt towards the extreme right this year if elections go as many expect in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Encouraged by the election of Donald Trump, the leaders of four of Europe’s far-right parties convened at the weekend to set out their visions of the future at a meeting in the German city of Koblenz.
Geert Wilders, Frauke Petry and Marine Le Pen all share the view that people want more control, more control over borders, budgets and Brussels.
A simple message that’s seen their popularity rise in the polls.
Wilders, the head of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) has been leading the major polls and is expected to cause an upset in March’s parliamentary elections.
Le Pen, leader of France’s anti-EU and anti-immigrant National Front, is seen as highly likely to make a two-person runoff vote for the French presidency in May.
And Petry’s anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party (AfD) is expected to unsettle the established order by entering the Bundestag in September as the third largest bloc.
For Wilders, the popularity of Petry’s party is a sign that Germans are wising-up to the folly of their current leader.
“Europe needs a strong Germany, a confident and proud Germany, a Germany that stands for its culture, its identity and civilisation. Europe needs Frauke instead of Angela,” he said.
Petry predicts a bleak future for the EU and has drawn parallels with Napoleon’s France, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
“And we stand together with our opinion that every country has to decide by itself what is best, and furthermore the commonalities are crucial for us. Together with parties represented here we want a subsidiary Europe of the free home countries. We agree on this even if there are some differences in the details. This doesn’t mean a contradiction,” she told a press conference afterwards.
Marine Le Pen repeated her promise to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership if she enters the Elysee Palace as president.
“The day after my election I will address the European Union and ask for the return of the four sovereign powers. The sovereignty of the territory, that is the borders, the sovereignty of the money, the economic sovereignty and the legislative sovereignty.”
The far-right leaders, also including Matteo Salvini, who head Italy’s Northern League, met under the slogan “Freedom for Europe” but several leading German media outlets were barred from attending the gathering which was organised by the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the smallest group in the European Parliament.