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Le Pen, Wilders and allies meet in Brussels for talks on forming far-right EU supergroup

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Andre Ventura, leader of Portuguese party Chega, left, look at each other during a news conference at the Portuguese parliament
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Andre Ventura, leader of Portuguese party Chega, left, look at each other during a news conference at the Portuguese parliament Copyright Armando Franca/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Armando Franca/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Mared Gwyn Jonesvideo by Vincenzo Genovese
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Far-right leaders are expected to broach the possible re-configuration of the right wing in the European Parliament.

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The leaders of Europe's most radical right-wing parties gathered in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss how to unite the EU's fractured right wing after it made gains in major national battlegrounds in the European elections.

France's Marine Le Pen - whose National Rally (RN) party is now the biggest delegation in the European Parliament after clinching 30 seats in last week's ballot - met the leader of Italy's far-right League party ahead of a gathering of leaders belonging to the Identity and Democracy (ID) group.

Geert Wilders, whose far-right PVV party recently struck a coalition deal to co-govern in the Netherland; Tom Van Grieken, the leader of Belgium's Vlaams Belang; and André Ventura, the leader of Portugal's Enough (Chega), were expected to join the talks, with Czech, Austrian and Danish far-right parties also represented.

In a statement, the League said that Salvini and Le Pen had discussed uniting Europe's "centre right", despite their parties being seen as some of the most radical in Europe.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, André Ventura - whose Enough ("Chega") party erupted onto the Portuguese political scene in March's snap legislative elections - said that whilst ID was integrated and aligned as a group, it was also actively looking to expand.

"ID is in broader negotiations in order to form a big right-wing bloc to fight against corruption, against illegal immigration and to control our borders," Ventura said.

"If these conversations lead to a successful outcome, we will be ready to participate in it. If they don't, we would also be very happy in the (ID) group," he added.

The far-right parties in the European Parliament are currently split into two camps: ID and the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which harbour the likes of Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy (FdI) and Spain's Vox. Whilst they didn't emerge as bolstered as expected in last week's European elections, they could become the third or even second biggest political force in the European Parliament if they were to merge.

Speaking to Euronews on Tuesday, Tom Vandendriessche, an MEP for Belgium's Vlaams Belang party, said: "We are now in discussions with all of our friends and partners."

"We as Vlaams Belang are open to any discussion about enlarging the group," he added.

Days ahead of the European ballot, Marine Le Pen told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera she was seeking Italian premier Giorgia Meloni’s backing to unite her own ID group with Meloni's ECR into a far-right supergroup.

The move is considered risky for Meloni, who has forged a close relationship with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and could lose out on an opportunity to cement her influence on the EU stage if she opens up to more radical forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron's decision to call snap legislative elections has also radically changed the stakes, as Marine Le Pen eyes her opportunity to take control of the National Assembly and install her 28-year-old protégé Jordan Bardella as France's prime minister.

It could give Le Pen's RN even more pull factor in attempts to form a far-right supergroup.

Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party is also politically homeless in the European Parliament and could potentially bolster such a supergroup by 11 seats.

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Deep rifts over Ukraine, pro-Russia sentiment

But uniting these radical forces is more complex that meets the eye. One issue in particular, the conflict in Ukraine, has uncovered a deep schism running down Europe's right wing.

Some parties within the ID group, notably the Austrian Party for Freedom (FPÖ), are considered pro-Russian and opposed to the EU's military and financial support to Kyiv.

Alternative for Germany (AfD) was also kicked out of the group last month in the aftermath of a raft of scandals, including allegations members had been paid by a Russian influence operation to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda in Europe.

Parties within the ID group have recently made calculated attempts to soften their stance on key dividing issues such as support to Ukraine and anti-European sentiment.

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In an interview with Euronews last month, the face of ID's European campaign Anders Vistisen sharply criticised the European Union for what he called its failure to "step up to the plate" when providing Kyiv with the military aid and equipment it needs to withstand Russia's invasion.

Leaders such as Le Pen and Wilders have also rowed back on previous suggestions they would leave the 27-country bloc if they came to power in their country.

In the run-up to the snap legislative election in France, Le Pen's party has even distanced itself from radical right-wing counterparts such as Éric Zemmour's Reconquête, while trying to secure the allegiance of centre-right partners.

Centrist and left-leaning forces have warned Europe's traditional centre-right forces from being wooed by radical partners, warning it could have devastating consequences for Ukraine and for Europe's own geopolitical stability.

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