Leaders from several national conservative/far-right parties were in Tallinn on Tuesday, including Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Rally. At a meeting held at the House of the Blackheads in Tallinn's Old Town, Olli Kotro (Finns Party), Anders Vistisen (Danish People's Party) and Manuel Vescovi (Lega Nord) joined Le Pen and Jaak Madison of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) to discuss the formation of a joint right-wing group the European Parliament.
A further meeting is to take place soon in Milan, Italy, and will include the aforementioned parties as well as the German Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Elected MEPs have to sit with one of several groups at the European Parliament; currently, MEPs from national conservative/far-right parties are spread across more than one such group.
A subsequent press conference held at 3 p.m. saw Marine Le Pen announce that NATO, a body of which she has been staunchly critical, should do more to combat terrorism.
Le Pen addressed the topic after being asked by ERR's Erle Loonurm whether she supported the deployment of French troops at Tapa Army Base, southeast of Tallinn, where French troops are currently serving in NATO Battlegroup Estonia as part of the alliance's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) posture.
Le Pen responded that this was not her choice, before going on to state that she shared Charles de Gaulle's view that France is a sovereign and strong force in international politics (de Gaulle temporarily took France out of NATO's joint management structure in 1966, effectively meaning that Paris could define the extent of its NATO participation itself-ed.).
She added that she would like to see France in more of an intermediary role, as de Gaulle had done, she said, and more specifically as a broker between the U.S. and Russia, as well as between those two nations and China and India.
Position the same as de Gaulle
"I don't think that this would be a question which I would put before myself today. You know my position on NATO, which is the same as that of de Gaulle. We believe that France is a balancing force. It has always been a go-between in nations, and we believe it has a special role to play in the sense of keeping the U.S. and Russia equidistant; we in National Rally have publicly expressed a desire for greater NATO integration in the fight against Islamist terrorism, since we feel that in today's Europe, it presents the greatest threat to both the security and the lives of our compatriots in general. The number of people killed in Europe as a result of Islamist terror is significant, and France is a country which has paid a high price," she said.
She also noted that current U.S. President Donald Trump shares that view, and also talked at some length on how France has been conducting anti-terror activities in the Sahel region of Africa, in so doing protecting the rest of Europe, even as French lives had been lost in the operations there.
According to ERR's Estonian-language online news, Le Pen failed to mention that Estonia is involved in the same Operation Barkhane, having deployed troops to the African nation of Mali in recent months.
She also noted, in respect to Russia — a topic in connection with which she has earned criticism in Estonia, not least for refusing to condemn or even acknowledge the 2014 annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation — that her party, founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen as the National Front, had long been involved in the fight against communism, having been founded during the Cold War era, adding that she was due to place a wreath at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Tallinn later on Tuesday.
On the issue of Crimea, Le Pen stated that the region had the right to decide for itself on its sovereignty.
She also denied that her party was directly Russian-funded, stating that since no European bank would lend to them, the party had to seek financing from further afield. It just so happened that the bank which came up with the goods was a Russian one, based in the Czech Republic.
"We got a loan — with a very bad rate of interest, but we are repaying it," she said.
Le Pen also stated that the proposed national conservative/far-right group she and other European politicians were planning need not be made up of clones who never disagree with each other, but simply allies.
EKRE leader Mart Helme noted differences that he and his party had with Le Pen, not only on Russia, but also on some economic issues, which he said Le Pen's party took a too "leftist" stance on.
Editor: Andrew Whyte