Ultra-right European leaders from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands were meeting in the German city of Koblenz to discuss their visions of “a free Europe” aimed at dismantling the EU.
Among the politicians addressing the meeting on Saturday were Marine Le Pen, who is anticipated to make it to the second-round run-off for the French presidency on May 7, along with Frauke Petry of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Controversial, anti-Muslim leader of the far-right Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), Geert Wilders and Italy’s Matteo Salvini of the Northern League who intends to take his country out of the euro, were also due to join the meeting.
Anti-immigration political parties have gained growing popularity across Europe amid high unemployment and austerity, the arrival of record numbers of refugees as well as terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Germany.
Several leading German news outlets have been banned from the meeting, organized by the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the smallest group in the European Parliament.
The rightist leaders are coming together under the slogan of “Freedom for Europe” with the aim of reinforcing ties between their like-minded parties, whose nationalist tendencies have hindered closer collaboration in the past.
They have also been encouraged by Britons’ referendum in 2016 to break away from the European Union.
“This gives us an opportunity to see how we stand with other European parties,” said a spokeswoman for Salvini.
Le Pen, in an interview with France’s Radio Classique, said the meeting was proof that her party was not isolated.
“It is therefore the revolution of the people that we are taking part in. It is obviously very important to show that the cooperative Europe we want to achieve (is reflected) in our cooperation,” she said.
In Germany, Petry’s AfD is expected to enter the national parliament for the first time after federal elections in September.
In the Netherlands, meanwhile, Wilders who was convicted last month of discrimination against Muslims is reportedly leading in all major polls before national legislative elections on March 15.
According to local reports, protest rallies against the far-right parties were also planned during the meeting.