Le Pen May Ditch Her EU Parliament Group in Far-Right Shakeup

(Bloomberg) -- Officials from Marine Le Pen’s movement are in advanced talks with other far-right groups in the European Parliament that could see her party abandon its current political family to join forces with Hungary’s Viktor Orban.

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Members of Le Pen’s Identity and Democracy group, which was set up in 2019 to represent far-right and extreme nationalist views across the bloc, plan to meet with EU allies the day after France’s election concludes this weekend to discuss the party’s future, according to a person directly involved in the talks.

Several of the group’s members are already deciding whether to join a new populist alliance announced this week by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Asked about a potential alliance with Orban in a radio interview on Tuesday, Le Pen said her party will look into options following the election.

Dissolving ID is intended in part to further distance existing members from Germany’s AfD party, according to people briefed on the plan. The far-right party was a key member of ID until earlier this year, when it was kicked out after AfD officials made statements minimizing Nazi war crimes.

To be formally recognized, the group needs members from at least seven countries. Among the parties who have expressed interest in joining Orban’s nascent group, which was set up with nationalists in Austria and the Czech Republic, are Matteo Salvini’s League party, and Le Pen’s National Rally itself, according to people familiar with the matter.

Salvini’s decision to publicly back Orban comes just after Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, both a coalition partner and a political opponent, pushed for more recognition in the upcoming top appointments in Brussels. The two politicians lead two far-right parties which belong to different groups in the EU Parliament.

Whether party leaders ultimately decide to join Orban, who is in Kyiv today on a state trip, will hinge on the results of the French election, which could affect whether or not Le Pen dissolves ID. If French politicians choose to join Orban, many others will follow, the people said.

Both Orban and Salvini said they are confident that their new alliance will become the third biggest in the EU Parliament.

Were that to happen, it would mark a big win for Hungary’s far-right leader, who is seeking to cement his influence within the bloc. Orban’s group, Patriots for Europe, wants to pursue a far-right populist agenda, which includes plans to curtail the European Union’s influence in national politics, revert power to member states and limit immigration into the bloc.

Le Pen brushed off criticism that she was avoiding laying out EU parliamentary plans ahead of the French vote out of concern that they might be seen as too friendly to Russia. Allegations that she supports Russia, she said, are “as false as ever.”

--With assistance from Andras Gergely, Marton Eder, Donato Paolo Mancini and Marton Kasnyik.

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