Italian populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen have announced the formation of a “Freedom Front” to unite populist parties going into next year’s European Parliament elections.
The two party leaders met in Rome Monday to discuss the concept of a united anti-mass migration, anti-Islamisation populist movement across Europe and laid out the proposal for cooperation among the populist parties noting that they were looking for the right candidate to lead the new group, Il Giornale reports.
According to some members of Salvini’s League party, the Interior Minister has been working for months, through both formal and informal meetings, to rally populists across the continent ahead of the election in May.
Since the start of the year, Salvini has met with many of Europe’s most high-profile populist and sovereigntist leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who called Salvini his “hero” and promised to help the Italian minister in securing the borders from mass illegal migration.
During the meeting, it is also alleged that Salvini spoke to Orbán about leaving the European People’s Party (EPP) parliamentary group in the EU Parliament. Some have argued for Orbán and his Fidesz party to be potentially removed from the group and many EPP members voted to invoke Article 7 against Hungary last month causing increased tension within the EPP.
Salvini has also met with Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache who currently serves as the country’s Vice-Chancellor in the conservative-populist coalition government along with Interior Minister Herbert Kickl with the League describing the meetings as “intense contacts”.
Italian newspaper La Stampa has fueled speculation that the candidate for the new Freedom Front could be Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson who recently led his party to a historic showing at this year’s national elections.
Salvini and his team are also watching the Bavarian elections this month and say they have opened a dialogue with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) to potentially join the Freedom Front as well.
The new group would come as a successor to the already established Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) parliamentary group that currently includes National Rally, the League, Flemish Interest of Belgium, Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom, former member of UKIP Janice Atkinson, as well as the FPÖ and a former member of the AfD.