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France’s Le Pen hints at far-right alliance with Italy’s Meloni after EU elections

By RFI
France AFP - ED JONES
THU, 23 MAY 2024 LISTEN
AFP - ED JONES

Europe's far-right figureheads Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni are hinting they could join forces following this summer's EU elections, after Le Pen's French party announced a break with its radical German ally AfD.

The overtures presage a possible reconfiguration of nationalist parties' alliances after voters decide the next European Parliament in June 6-9 elections.

Surveys suggest the parliament's far-right groups - currently fractured - will win around 37 percent of seats in the next legislative term, up from 30 percent currently.

At a far-right rally in Madrid on Sunday, Le Pen declared: "We are all together in the final stretch to make June 9 a day of liberation and hope."

A day later Meloni, prime minister of Italy since October 2022, said in a television interview that she wanted to replicate the success of her post-fascist party at home and "do the same thing in Europe: ally parties that are compatible with each other in terms of vision, even with completely different nuances".

The door to that scenario opened wider Tuesday when Le Pen's National Rally (RN) said it was splitting with the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The announcement came after the AfD's lead EU candidate Maximilian Krah told an Italian newspaper that not every member of the Nazi's feared SS was "automatically a criminal".

 "The AfD crossed what I consider to be red lines," RN leader Jordan Bardella told French channel LCI. He said far-right alliances in the European Parliament would "go back to zero" after the elections.

The RN and AfD are part of the extreme-right Identity and Democracy (ID) EU parliament group.

Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, in contrast, sits with the far-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

A third hard-right force sits in the EU parliament in the form of Fidesz, the unaffiliated party of Hungary's Kremlin-friendly Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

'Queen bees'
Analysts say key issues divide the parliament's far-right factions.

Most notably, the ID is sceptical of continued EU support for Ukraine's war against Russia's invading army, while the ECR backs Kyiv in its fight.

 "These deep-seated differences seem difficult to reconcile," Pascale Joannin, managing director at the Robert Schuman Foundation, a think tank, said in an analysis.

But Nicolai von Ondarza, at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, wrote on X that "a more fundamental change has now... become possible" because of the RN-AfD split.

Le Pen could now "argue for a merger with Meloni, Orban, the Netherlands' Geert Wilders & Co towards a united far-right sans the most radical part", he said.

But von Ondarza acknowledged that most likely, "the differences... are too high" for that to happen.

Daniele Albertazzi, co-director at the Centre for Britain and Europe think tank, said on X that while it might be "logical" for Le Pen's RN to abandon the ID and join the ECR, "she may well resent playing second fiddle to Meloni".

"Too many queen bees and the bee hive descends into anarchy," he said.

While Le Pen has welcomed Meloni "opening the way" to a possible rapprochement, she also said last year that the Italian leader "is not my twin sister".

Le Pen is more closely allied with Meloni's deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, from Italy's far-right League party - a fellow ID member.

Salvini's team posted Wednesday a photo of him meeting online with Le Pen to "take stock of the situation ahead of the European elections, also in light of the reflections shared yesterday on the future composition of the ID group".

(with AFP)

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