After French Win, Far-Right Marine Le Pen Seeks Power in Belgium
Fresh from her shock victory in European elections on home turf, French far-right chief Marine Le Pen on Wednesday launched a strong bid for leadership of the eurosceptic camp in Brussels, according to AFP.
After driving her National Front (NF) to first place with 24 percent of the vote in France, Le Pen hopes to form and take command of a far-right group of parties in the European Parliament, a move that would boost both her influence and financial means.
As an official group, the Front and its allies would win the right to express an opinion on any issue raised in plenary session and take the presidency of any of the parliament's 20 committees and two sub-committees.
Its president would help draw up the agenda of the plenary sessions and win the right to reply directly in plenary session to the heads of the European Commission and the European Council.
It would also be given a secretariat, offices and aides paid by Parliament. Last year the Parliament's seven outgoing political groups shared a budget of 57 million euros ($78 million).
On top of this, the group would benefit from extra subsidies paid out to pan-European parties such as the 400,000 euros ($545,000) a year currently handed to the Malta-based European Alliance for Freedom (EAF).
It includes the French Front, Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang (VB), the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO).
Depending on how many members of parliament (MEPs) it had, it could win anywhere between one and three million euros a year.
"An alliance of far right parties would be more a marriage of convenience than a marriage of love," said a Parliament official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
United by their opposition to the European Union, the continent's far-right groups remain far apart ideologically.
Groups are required to number 25 MEPs from seven countries to be formally recognized. While it will be easy for the NF to drum up the numbers, given that it has 24 seats on its own, it could be two countries short.
Le Pen currently can count on the PVV (four MEPs), FPO (four) and VB (one). She has also been pledged the support of Italy's Northern League with five seats.
The other big eurosceptic winner of the European vote is the rival UK Independence Party (UKIP) led Nigel Farage, who also garnered 24 seats.
Farage currently heads the parliament's eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group that includes far-rightists from Poland, Italy and elsewhere.
The outspoken British skeptic, who like Le Pen scored a historic first place ahead of the mainstream parties in the EU vote, has up until now refused any thought of an alliance with the NF, saying it was too tainted by anti-Semitism in its past.
But he has left himself open to the possibility of a joint front.