European cash 'jackpot' that could boost Marine Le Pen's bid for French presidency

By and

After her party's successes in the recent European elections, the leader of the far-right Front National is striving to form her own multi-national political group at the European Parliament. The official reason is that such a grouping will strengthen the FN president’s political clout in the parliament. But as Ludovic Lamant and Marine Turchi report, there is another reason for setting up the group – and that is to enable the FN to get its hands on several million euros a year in EU funds. Thus this most eurosceptic of French politicians might end up using EU money to help support her attempt to win the French presidency in 2017.

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Marine Le Pen has been busy in Brussels since the European elections last month which saw her far-right Front National (FN) pick up 24 seats. Last week she held a press conference in which she discussed plans to form her own political group in the European Parliament. Flanked by Geert Wilders from the Dutch Party for Freedom PVV and representatives from the Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, the Austrian Freedom Party FPÖ and the Northern League party from Italy, the FN president looked forward to heading the only political force in Europe able, as she put it, to oppose the “[European] oligarchy which is afraid of the people”.

Yet while the French far-right leader sounded confident of forming a group by the deadline of June 24th, the reality is somewhat different. To create a distinct political grouping at the European Parliament the rules state that it must contain at least 25 MEPs drawn from parties in seven different member countries. With 24 members in its own right, the FN will have no problem fulfilling the first requirement. But the second criterion is a different matter. As of this week she still lacked two parties, though she insisted the plan was on track. “The possible combinations are considerable, we're not going to mention them in front of you...it requires discretion,” she told journalists.

Given the difficulties involved in bringing together a political group made up of seven different parties from seven different countries, the question arises: why is Marine Le Pen so keen to make it work? In the last European Parliament the FN's three MEPs – of whom she was one – were what is known as 'non-attached members', meaning they were not aligned with any political group. Given the FN's stridently anti-European tone, and its years of attacks on and mocking of EU institutions, this at least seemed a logical stance for the party's members. So why, suddenly, does Marine Le Pen want to play along with the European Parliament's game of political groups?