Le Pen wants EU to be ‘association of free nations’ – EURACTIV.com

After defeat in the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing Rassemblement National renewed its discourse about Europe, aiming to appeal to a wider electorate, but it is uncertain if this shift will give Le Pen a shot at winning the keys to the Elysée Palace in April. EURACTIV France reports.

A ‘Europe of free nations’

On the eve of the EU elections in 2019, the party dropped its promise to leave the euro.

This time around, if elected, Le Pen said in a recent interview, her first trip abroad would be to Brussels. Her aim is to make it clear that she intends to fight institutions that work “without the people, and even against the people” and transform the EU into “an association of free nations”.

Her goal is to convert the EU into “a space of partnership between free and independent visions”, party spokesperson Julien Odoul, told EURACTIV France, a stark contrast to the new German government, which has indicated it wants to work toward a more integrated, federalist Europe.

A glimpse of the project was revealed when Le Pen argued that every national law should be considered superior to EU law during a visit to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in October 2021. Under the current treaties, EU laws have primacy over national laws.

Institutional changes ‘not a priority’

Le Pen also wants the European Commission to lose what she describes as some of the “unconstitutional” powers it has given itself. While this approach is milder than her pledge in 2019 to completely abolish the institution, she is eager to make the EU executive a “secretariat of the Council”, in order to restore the sovereignty of nations.

Asked how difficult it would be for Le Pen to carry out institutional reforms at the EU level, Odoul voiced a conviction that the institutions will be “de facto reshaped” the day after Le Pen is elected.

Le Pen is also calling for a “reorientation” and more “common sense” in the functioning of the EU, and France’s strong influence within the bloc should allow such changes, he added.

Priorities at EU level

If Le Pen is elected, one of the priorities will be the EU’s reindustrialisation based on two axes, Odoul also said.

These include, on the one hand, an association of “great European champions” of industry, and on the other, at the national level, a preference for the French in terms of access to social benefits and training – something that the Constitutional Council could block.

However, the main risk that needs to be tackled according to Odoul is “the submersion of Europe by 2050”.

Le Pen wants the EU agenda to feature the fight against immigration, which would include an overhaul of the EU migration agency Frontex and the passport-free Schengen area, “which has become a sieve”.

This ambition is shared in part by President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to tackle the issue in the next six months during the French EU Council presidency.

This should make it possible to “avoid the replacement of the European population” in the long term – a thinly veiled reference to the “great replacement” theory taken up by the other far-right candidate in the presidential election campaign, Éric Zemmour, known for his open criticism of Islam and immigration.

Macron presents France’s EU Council presidency priorities

French President Emmanuel Macron gave an overview on Thursday (9 December) of the priorities France wants to pursue when it takes over the EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2022. Reforming the border-free Schengen area, setting up a European defence system and a new European model were among the priorities he outlined. EURACTIV France reports.

Exit from Frexit

While leaving the eurozone and the bloc altogether is no longer part of the far-right party’s programme, Odoul promises there is “no change of doctrine” but simply “a different context compared to 2017”.

Indeed, if Rassemblement National’s predecessor, Front National, had won the 2017 election, it would have been too isolated at the EU level to enforce any substantial reforms.

On top of that, Le Pen would have “powerful allies” if elected this year. When it comes to migration, these would include the Polish and Hungarian nationalist governments but also the Danish social democrat led government which has sought to broker agreements with the likes of Rwanda to process immigration and asylum applications.

According to the party, these governments will support Le Pen in her ambitions for a new Europe.

A Europe at France’s service

Le Pen’s project has evidently evolved as a result of realpolitik.

She has shown a desire to increase the credibility of her discourse on EU matters, leaving room for proposals that are less disruptive but more realistic and potentially reassuring to voters.

Her party has long displayed its desire to exploit the EU’s institutional, economic, geopolitical resources for France’s benefit.  And despite the party’s discourse about Europe’s Christian roots, it has long been opposed to a federal construction project.

[Edited by Mathieu Pollet/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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