The European elections set for June 7 will give the pro-sovereignty movements a chance to regain some of the ground lost when France was forced kicking and screaming into the EU, and the Irish were told they would have to re-vote on the Lisbon Treaty, and that they better get it right this time.
All eyes will be on the results achieved by the Front National and Libertas, the group formed by the fusion of Philippe de Villiers' MPF (Movement for France) and the smaller CPNT party headed by Frédéric Nihous. CPNT stands for "Chasse, Pêche, Nature et Traditions" – Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition – and was formed in 1989. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Libertas:
Libertas France is the name given to the activities of Declan Ganley's Libertas Party in France. Unlike Libertas in other countries, Libertas France is not a political party in its own right. Instead, candidates from Mouvement pour la France (MPF) and Chasse, Pêche, Nature et Traditions (CPNT) intend to contend the 2009 European Parliament elections in France under common lists branded with the Libertas identity. The candidates retain their membership of their national parties and the national parties retain their legal identity. […] Villiers (MPF) and Frédéric Nihous (CPNT) laid out the issues on which they would campaign: anti-Lisbon Treaty, pro-Fortress Europe, and anti-Turkish accession to the EU.
These are three issues most sovereignty parties can agree upon: no Lisbon Treaty, hence a reduction in the power of Brussels; a Europe protected from rampant globalism and uncontrollable immigration (this is what is meant by Fortress Europe); and a refusal to accept Turkey in the EU.
The affiliation of MPF to Libertas was not unanimously supported: 32 federation presidents signed a motion of no confidence against Philippe de Villiers. Paul-Marie Coûteaux, the existing MPF MEP for Île-de-France who had been dropped as head of the list in favor of Jérôme Rivière, also voiced his disapproval.
Coûteaux has since abandoned his candidacy in the elections. He described what he assumed would be his last meeting with Villiers, in a post dated March 10, published by Le Salon Beige on March 23:
Dinner last night with Philippe de Villiers was upsetting from start to finish. I have probably spoken with him for the last time... I told him over and over that he is falling into a trap, that there is no way I can run under the banner of a man [Declan Ganley] who insists Europe needs a constitution
Le Salon Beige bemoaned Coûteaux's decision, since at the time he said he would join a small splinter party called "Debout la République" headed by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who has refused to join any larger coalition. But Coûteaux apparently has decided to drop the whole thing and stay home.
As usual, the inability of the Right to unite in a common mission may be its undoing in these elections, as it has been in so many others.
Jérôme Rivière, mentioned above as campaign director for Libertas, was formerly the UMP deputy from Nice, but fell out of favor with Sarkozy after defending the remarks on Islam made by Benedict XVI in Regensburg, remarks that generated a huge reaction from the Muslim world. But Rivière had opposed Sarkozy on numerous other issues as well: immigration; the right of foreigners to vote; gay marriage and adoption, etc... He was removed from the UMP ballot in the June 2007 legislative elections, ran instead as an independent, but lost to Sarkozy's man.
Who is Declan Ganley, founder of Libertas?
He is a British-born millionaire businessman of Irish descent who founded Libertas, a political lobby that advocated a "no" vote in the Irish referendum, in June 2008. Libertas actually was first heard of as early as 2003. You can read about Libertas at Wikipedia, and follow as many links as you have time for. This one will lead you to a short page on the origins of Libertas. And this one deals with Libertas as a political party, with branches throughout Europe.
Ganley's business ventures, including one failed attempt to set up an investment fund in Albania, have not all been transparent. Many French nationalists are fiercely critical of his connections to the United States where he is chairman of Rivada Networks, a defense contractor specializing in military telecommunications.
Some French nationalists are shunning Libertas, in favor of other sovereignty parties, such as the Front National, because of Ganley's pro-European stand. Though he lobbied energetically against the Lisbon Treaty, he is resolutely for Europe, as the following quotes illustrate. Most of these quotes were made by Ganley to the Heritage Foundation.
I believe in the European project. I believe in the absolute necessity of its success.
Libertas is passionately pro-European. We believe that the European Union is one of the most worthwhile, and laudable political projects in history, and we are proud to be able to make some contribution to its future success.
Libertas is not nor will ever be Eurosceptic.
If we are to have a constitution in Europe its something that the average 15 year old should be able to read and understand...and it is most certainly something that every European citizen...must have the opportunity state by state to accept or reject at the ballot box.
...and if they reject it let's be honest, let's tell them where this European project is going, and if they reject it, we have to go back to the drawing board, and we have to try again. And if they reject it the next time we have to do the same thing again. Until we get it right.
It is not entirely inconsistent that Philippe de Villiers would join forces with Libertas. He has said that he is for Europe, but against Brussels. So it would seem that many sovereigntists are willing to accept a united Europe, even with a Constitution, provided the powers of Brussels are severely restricted and the individual nations retain a large measure of sovereignty.
In addition, Ganley is able to provide funds for the campaign and the spread of information, especially on the Internet, thus energizing the MPF, whose leader Philippe de Villiers is more active than he has been since 2007 and more at ease perhaps in this role as pro-sovereignty candidate than he was as a presidential candidate
You may want to read some of Ganley's latest comments at the BBC website.
Finally, Craig Connolly has frequently written about Libertas – Irish version of course. I did a search at his blog and came up with this web page. Very interesting information, good illustrations, and a view of Libertas from a person close to the source.