Le Pen Wows Europe’s Rightist Hopefuls in Sofia

Marine Le Pen and Veselin Mareshki in a show of unity during a nationalists press conference in Sofia on Friday, 14 November. Photo: Vassil Donev, EPA.
November 16, 2018
Right-wing nationalists from many countries gathered in Sofia to discuss forming a front for the European elections next May – but the star of the show was French nationalist firebrand Marine Le Pen.

“We are at a historic threshold, a time when one cycle – that of wild globalization – is coming to an end.” This was one of the main messages of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Rally, once the National Front, who visited Bulgaria on Friday as part of a 20-member delegation of right-wing politicians from the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom, MENF.

Le Pen and her nationalist allies visited Sofia on the invitation of the Volya [“Will”] party, led by of pharma and fuel businessman Veselin Mareshki, who is currently under investigation for suspected extortion from other pharmacy owners.

They attended a forum under the motto “The Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom – a New Model for European Citizens” that aims to prepare them for the upcoming European parliamentary elections in May 2019, in which rightists and nationalists are tipped to do well.

EU dismissed as ‘crippled empire’:

Before launching the forum, the politicians gave an almost hour-long press conference in the Bulgarian parliament, which bristled with anti-EU language and nativist slogans about Europe’s doom under a wave of migration, the evils of the Brussels bureaucracy and wrongfulness of EU policy towards Russia.

Twenty politicians from five countries attended the meeting, including the Japanese-Czech leader of the Freedom and Direct Democracy group, Tomio Okamura, and Gerolf Annemans, from Belgium’s Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang movement.

But most of the focus was turned towards Le Pen and Mareshki. “Europe is changing before our eyes. The patriotic wave is on the rise and it shows what kind of Europe voters want,” Mareshki began, calling the rise of nationalist parties across the continent “an irreversible tendency” that will save Europe and its traditional values.

He moved on to attack the other self-described nationalist fraction in Bulgaria, the United Patriots, UP, called the minority coalition partner of Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov, “pseudo-nationalists” and “a complete failure”, although he did not mention anything about Borissov himself.

Mareshki then lashed out against the European Union, which he accused of not doing anything to aid his fight against a supposed cartel in the fuel retail sector, despite his warnings.

Other speakers mostly pointed fingers at the EU’s bureaucracy and supposedly authoritarian tendencies.

Greek New Right leader Failos Kranidiotis slated the Left, NGOs, the liberal philanthropist George Soros and the bankers, one after the other, for ruining the nations of Europe, finally calling the EU a “crippled empire”.

French villages turning into ghettos, Le Pen says:

Le Pen took the floor last, and was more vehement and passionate than most of the other speakers.

She warned of a European open-door migration policy that aims to destroy the core values of the nations of the continent.

“You should know what will happen if you don’t react to the migration wave. There are entire villages in France, which are dominated mostly by migrants that turn them into ghettos and are controlled by gangs,” she insisted.

“Those who have barricaded themselves behind the glass facades of Brussels think they can buy everything – well, you can’t buy us! You can’t corrupt us! We want voluntary cooperation between free nations, not an imposed one,” she added.

BRIN asked Le Pen and Mareshki what policy the “Europe of Nations” would have towards Russia and the Western Balkans.

Both backed dropping the sanctions regime against Moscow and said each country should have its own policy towards the Kremlin, based on its interests, historic and cultural ties  – which Le Pen described as very strong both in the cases of France and Bulgaria.

The two slightly diverged on the place of the Western Balkans in Europe.

“Of course, they should move in the direction of Europe, but it is a lie that this path necessarily goes through NATO,” Mareshki said.

Le Pen, meanwhile, said the further expansion of the EU was not relevant, as her envisaged “European alliance of free nations” would welcome any sovereign state that shared its values.

Asked if she knew about the complex business and political past of Mareshki, Le Pen said: “To tell you honestly, I don’t care.”

She was backing Volya and not the other Bulgarian nationalists because of the party’s program, she noted.

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