It is hard to tell which of the two emotions – national pride or indignation over obvious injustice – fuels the revival of the Europeans' unique national spirit. This year the process which the European political class is desperately trying to impede manifested itself in a pattern-setting array of political developments.
In Finland, the True Finns garnered 20% of the vote in the country's parliamentary elections. Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom ranked third in the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands with the score of 15.5%. Securing the support from the Danish People's Party which formally stays outside of the ruling coalition of liberals and conservatives has for a decade been a must for every government in Denmark. The Swedish democrats linked to the Danish People's Party and sharing its anti-immigration agenda managed for the first time to scrape past the parliamentary election barrier. The Swiss People's Party has long been a parliamentary heavyweight with scores climbing towards 30%. Italy's Northern League ended up with the modest 9% in the last race to parliament but still cannot be discounted in the context, as the figure nowhere nearly reflects the extent of its political influence. A remarkable success story is the rise of the Austrian Freedom Party which won a third of the seats in the country's parliament under Jörg Haider.
While a lot of dirt is thrown at the far right, the indisputable fact is that all times they have been representing those of the Europeans who are keenly aware of their identity and tend to be vocal in defending it. What unites the right is the advocacy of national interests of their own countries' citizens plus a staunch opposition to the creeping occupation of Europe by migrants. At the moment the cause which is evidently gaining momentum is championed by Marion Anne Perrine Le Pen, the daughter of the charismatic French nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen and an increasingly visible figure on Europe's political horizon. Marine Le Pen, a lawyer by training and an experienced legal chancellor, headed the Front National (FN) founded and led for 38 years by her father before she became a European parliament member in 2004. Last April, the FN charged Marine Le Pen with running as its candidate in the 2012 French presidential elections.
A survey conducted by Ifop for France Soir and a Harris Institute poll for Le Parisien gave Marine Le Pen 23% in the first round of the elections, placing her ahead of the incumbent N. Sarkozy, a “bare-knuckled campaigner” whose projected score in the studies measured 21%. Among other staples, Le Pen's criticisms of the campaign in Libya, calls for France to withdraw from NATO, and the idea that Paris should reorient its policies from Washington to Moscow appear to resonate with the French constituencies.
Marine Le Pen's success is largely owed to the strategy she invented based on her experiences as a legal counsel – under her guidance the FN took to combining the traditional nationalism with a bold socioeconomic agenda. Germany's Spigelonline, for example, stressed that Le Pen is selling a candidacy of a defender of the disadvantaged strata of the French population.
“The world is standing on the brink of some serious financial shocks, which will have a particularly strong effect in the Eurozone”, warns Marine Le Pen. - “At the same time, I strongly believe that this crisis opens some great opportunities for France, as paradoxical as it may sound... The crisis could give rise to changes in the domestic and foreign policy of France, which has long needed to stop conforming to the US and turn towards Russia. I have long been saying that we need to develop relations with Moscow and not Washington, because we share many common interests both in cultural and strategic terms”.
The New Times made an attempt to probe in an interview into the factors which contribute to the surge in nationalists' ratings in France and into the agenda these forces are offering France, Europe, and the rest of the world. Marine Le Pen brushed off allegations of racism and xenophobia and emphasized that the FN anything but dispenses empty pledges. Citing the polls which steadily demonstrate the group's excellent chances in the upcoming presidential campaign, she explained that in France the people are tired of the left-right policy swings and begin to realize that the left socialists and the right Gaullists are essentially in league with each other and implement policies which carry no promise of serious change. According to the FN leader, for three decades, both camps have spared no effort to demonize Jean-Marie Le Pen and to marginalize the party, but the actual result is the opposite of what they hoped to achieve, and currently it is impossible to keep portraying Le Pen as some kind of a devil.
Le Pen holds that multiculturalism in Europe automatically generates conflicts. The cases of Kosovo and Lebanon by all means warrant the conclusion, and, moreover, these days even the European leaders – A. Merkel, N. Sarkozy, and D. Cameron - seem to have woken up to reality and admit the collapse of the policy. Le Pen's recipe is to cap immigration and, instead, to pour money into Africa and the Arab east, the aim being to assist in building stable democratic societies across the regions regardless of how long and resource-consuming the process might be.
When the correspondent asked Le Pen if her plan was to insulate France, the reply was that it certainly was not, but that immigrants should realize that in Europe they should count entirely on themselves and never - on welfare. She charges that for France the EU membership translated into total absence of borders and a loss of sovereignty. Originally, integration within the EU was supposed to ensure Europe's economical and political competitiveness vis-a-vis the US, China, India, and Russia, but at the moment but Europe finds itself weaker than ever. According to Le Pen, France sacrificed to the EU basically all it had – the national currency, sovereignty over its territory, and independence in political and economic decision-making, eventually losing the status of a nation and accepting the role of a vassal of the EU and the dying Euro.
The “extreme nationalist's” biting invectives are an enjoyable resource to draw from. She slams Sarkozy over his myth that the Euro must be saved at all costs or the end of the world will follow and warns that the costs are going to be unbearable. The burden already makes Ireland stagger as the country is slashing salaries and welfare. Europe's 2009 recession was unprecedented, but, under pressure to keep the common currency afloat, the European countries were unable to react. Le Pen argues that the Franc has shed 75% of its value relative to the Deutsche Mark in 1949-1989, which did not cause France to lag behind Germany in terms of the economic growth, while at present Paris lacks the handy economic instrument that adjusting the national currency exchange rate could be. On the average, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden boast a 2.5% growth, 5.4% unemployment, and a 1.5% of the GDP budget deficit compared respectively to 1.3%, 8.6%, and 2.6% across the Eurozone. Le Pen therefore likens the EU to a giant dying whale and criticizes the European political class for its inability to face the truth.
Le Pen sends a clear message that the French will not tolerate their elite's hypocrisy any longer and predicts that, as a result, their preferences will sway towards the honest political forces in the 2012 elections. She suggests sending back to neutral waters the boats with immigrants that attempt to dock illegally at the French shores and warns that cutting off the non-European immigration and tightening citizenship requirements are long overdue. From her perspective, the optimal solutions for France are the reinstatement of traditional values, abortion restrictions, the encouragement of higher fertility rates, and strong support for the national culture. The priorities she seeks to put on the government's program also include propping up national companies and small businesses.
The FN which Marine Le Pen informally leads asserts that readiness to “submit to the French way of life, its practices, traditions and rights” should be a prerequisite for the naturalization of immigrants. The immigrants' race and ethnic origin do not matter – their actual Frenchness is what does. Marine Le Pen said in an interview to Euronews that the FN is the only party having to oppose all others, surviving on a budget scarce compared to what its rivals can count on and struggling under permanent pressure, but one whose leaders can say: “We have never been wrong”. Few party leaders in Europe have reasons to make a similar claim.
Finally, what sets the national parties and governments apart from the pro-EU cosmopolitans? The answer is straightforward. The former advocate the interests of their respective nations inhabiting their own historical territories, with factories, farms, and infrastructures, and serve the people working therein. The latter serve the international capitals and transnational corporations preoccupied with nothing but revenues and having no homeland, historical memory, or nations to identify with.