Nationalist parties from seven European countries convened in Vienna last weekend to join forces. The “patriotic and nationalist parties and movements” signed a so-called “Vienna Declaration” calling for a stop to immigration in the entire European Union and the defence of Europe against “terrorism, aggressive islamism, superpower imperialism and economic aggression by low-wage countries.” The parties also reject the European Constitution and demand that “geographically, culturally, religiously and ethnically non-European territories in Asia and Africa” will be excluded from joining the European Union.
The participants were invited by the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and included Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National from France, Alessandra Mussolini’s Azione Sociale from Italy, the Spanish Alternativa Española, the anti-Hungarian Great Romania Party, the openly anti-Semite Bulgarian party Ataka, and Belgium’s largest party, the Vlaams Belang. The Italian Lega Nord, the Danish People’s Party and Poland’s governing Law and Justice were not present but are said to have sent their greetings.
The parties agreed to create a European contact group with a permanent office in Vienna. They also plan to hold annual conferences together. Their main aim, however, is to create a common group in the European Parliament. From 2009 onwards the European Union, which will be joined by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, will allow only pan-European parties to stand for the European elections. This is forcing right-wing parties, with often widely divergent views, to cooperate on a common platform.
Up till now the animosity between Jean-Marie Le Pen and FPÖ leader Jörg Haider had made international cooperation impossible. Le Pen and Haider each regarded themselves as the leading figure of the European nationalist right. Last April, however, the FPÖ split and Haider founded a new party, the BZÖ. With Le Pen growing older, Filip Dewinter, the charismatic strongman of the Vlaams Belang (VB), is generally seen as the new man to lead the European nationalist right.
Dewinter, who has been a close friend of Le Pen for years, told the Austrian press on Monday that Haider had always been his “great example” but that he had been “disappointed” in him: “He is no longer the Haider that I knew.”
Within Dewinter’s own VB, however, there is dissatisfaction about the plans for international cooperation. The VB is a party which strives for the independence of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium. It is the largest party in Belgium, which has forced all other parties to team up against it. Polls predict that the VB will continue to grow. This might make it impossible for the other parties to form a coalition in 2009 – something which might very well lead to Belgium falling apart.
The VB, however, is made up of various groups who agree on the mutual aim of Flemish secession and in their opposition to multiculturalism, but not on economic issues or on ethical values. There is also a conservative Anglo-Saxon oriented wing in the party that would rather collaborate with the British Eurosceptics than with the continental far right. The party Council, the highest authority within the party, decided two years ago that the VB would not enter into alliances with any foreign political parties.