Could the threat of a Le Pen Presidency be the wake up call that Europe needs?

It takes a lot to get the Brussels press corps to turn out at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, but turn out they did for Marine Le Pen. Even the fact that the object of their interest arrived over an hour late, leaving them standing outside the Brussels Press Club did not deter them.

Madame Le Pen herself appears more confident than ever, and worked the crowd in a manner more American than French.

Ahead of next April’s French Presidential elections, former EU Commissioner and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is seeking the nomination for the right-wing ticket, representing the conservative Les Republicains (LR) party.

He has pledged to bring in a moratorium on non-EU migration into France, and his call for his country to regain its “sovereignty” from the European courts at first glance appears to suggest he has converted to the Nigel Farage school of political thought. In fact, while his candidacy may be a spoiler, intended to take votes away from Le Pen, it is reported that the current French President, Emmanuel Macron, is more worried about Barnier eating into his own vote.

What is most interesting about this, however, is the suggestion that by stealing Le Pen’s political space Barnier is in fact vindicating right-wing policies that the political establishment has for decades vilified. Immigration, it would appear, is no longer a taboo subject!

In fact, Barnier is not alone in this. Also apparently in the running is journalist and author Éric Zemmour, a 63 year-old Berber Jew of Algerian descent, whose diatribes against Islam and French “decline” have won him a wide following, although he has yet to formally declare his intention to run.

Zemmour, who has appeared in court facing numerous charges including provocation of racial discrimination and provocation of hatred against Muslims, has won the backing of none other than Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine, who has himself faced allegations of Holocaust denial. Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.

A new opinion poll on on very day that Mme. Le Pen appeared at the Press Club saw Zemmour edge her out of the qualifying spot for a second-round duel against Macron in next April's presidential election with 16-16.5% in the first round vs 15-16% for Le Pen.

At the time of writing, Hungary’s controversial right-wing Viktor Orban is the main focus of the ire of the EU political elites. However bothersome they may see him though, he poses no tangible threat to the EU institutions. Likewise Zemmour.

A Marine Le Pen presidency would be a different story altogether...

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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