Declaring that 2017 will be the “year of the awakening of the people of continental Europe,” French far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen joined fellow nationalists Saturday at a conference in Germany, in a show of populist confidence as Europe faces a series of high-stakes national elections.
Right-wing leaders from France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and elsewhere strode confidently into the Koblenz congress hall on the banks of the Rhine River ahead of a flag-waving escort, setting the tone for a gathering whose mood was buoyed by Donald Trump’s swearing-in as U.S. president. The European parties hope for similar success in tapping anti-establishment and protectionist sentiment in elections this year.
Le Pen revelled in Trump taking power in the U.S., months after Britain voted to leave the 28-nation European Union in a referendum that she hopes to emulate.
“2016 was the year when the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. And 2017, I am sure, will be the year of the awakening of the people of continental Europe,” she said.
She denounced the EU as “a force of sterilization” and assailed Merkel — whose name was booed loudly — for allowing in large numbers of asylum-seekers last year.
Le Pen praised Trump for what she said was a clear position on Europe: “He will not support a system of oppression of the people.”
“We are experiencing the end of one world and the birth of another,” she said. “We are experiencing the return of nation states.”
Le Pen added that Trump was elected on the back of many of the ideas the European nationalists hold dear, pointing to “common accents” with what they have long said in his inauguration speech on Friday.
“We have fought, at first separately in each of our countries and now united, together, a whole series of great values: the nation, control of our borders, the defence of our people, patriotism, sovereignty, the defence of our national identities,” she said.