Published on Sep 17, 2023 at 4:36 p.m.
Alsace, Brittany, Occitanie… In Beaucaire in the Gard, for the RN back-to-school days, local products are displayed on regional stands run by volunteers. The atmosphere is so friendly that Marine Le Pen finds herself humming the refrain of a Dalida song in front of the cameras. But behind the picturesque and local touch, European questions are never far away at the National Rally.
While Italy has been facing since Thursday the arrival of thousands of migrants on the island of Lampedusa , Marine Le Pen, for the first time in such an ostensible manner, distances herself from Rome. The start of major maneuvers in anticipation of the European elections on June 9, a high-stakes vote for the RN and its president Jordan Bardella, once again mandated to match the score of 2019, if not surp it. Under his leadership, the RN had obtained, among French parties, the largest number of seats in the European Parliament, with 23 MEPs.
Salvini rather than Meloni
After this militant return to Beaucaire, Marine Le Pen was this Sunday in the north of the Italian peninsula to meet the representative of the League and notorious nationalist, Matteo Salvini. The vice-president of the Italian council, who holds his annual political meeting there belongs to the ruling right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party.
This ally of circumstance – her election in September 2022 was welcomed by the RN – has become cumbersome due to her repeated calls for European solidarity in the face of waves of migrants. A form of renunciation, even abdication, for the RN which has made these recent events the symptom of the migration crisis at the same time as a proven campaign argument.
Convenient ally become cumbersome
“With Emmanuel Macron, Europe has become a hostess for migrants. With us, she will accompany the boats to the countries of departure,” proclaimed Jordan Bardella in front of a won over audience of elected officials and activists gathered in the Beaucaire arenas this Saturday.
Marine Le Pen herself supported this statement virulently on stage, in a barely veiled reference to the statements of Giorgia Meloni. “And I will go even further, it is vain to call on the European Union to resolve the diplomatic crisis like a child calls mom when he has a problem. It’s vain and even dangerous,” she mocked. This Sunday, the Italian Prime Minister who received the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Lampedusa, declared: “The future of Europe is at stake here”.
“If I were Italian, I might be disappointed”
The specter of record abstention during the 2021 regional elections agitates the ranks of the RN. The National Rally had not obtained any region. To “mobilize” in the European elections, the party is betting more than ever on its fundamentals, immigration in the lead. The opportunity to denounce a certain softness on the part of Giorgia Meloni, far from the platform promises of her campaign. “Our ally is Salvini, not Meloni,” recalled the leaders of the RN on Friday in Avignon, behind closed doors of a meeting of parliamentary groups on the edge of the Palais des Papes.
“If I were Italian, I would perhaps be disappointed, but I am not Italian,” Jordan Bardella confines himself to privately commenting, who at the same time praises the qualities of the former Italian Interior Minister. “Salvini had contributed to significantly reducing boat returns. Madame Meloni is trying to manage a crisis and a shortage,” the president of the RN wants to remember. Two weights, two measures. And to add to the address of French voters: “The most humanist policy is ours because it discourages crossing.”
Marion Maréchal scratched
The rushing arrival of Marion Maréchal, candidate and head of the Reconquest list , this Friday in Lampedusa, is also no stranger to this distancing. Marine Le Pen’s niece clearly supports the Italian executive led by Giorgia Meloni “abandoned by the EU, France and [qui] finds himself alone in managing this situation, even though the Italian borders are not only the borders of Italy.”
More Salvini than Meloni, Marine Le Pen, uses her experience in small groups, even if it means scratching Marion Maréchal: “I went there in 2011 when we needed images to make our position on Lampedusa known,” she scathes .
The future candidate for the Elysée “until proven otherwise” does not shy away from publicity either. On the sidelines of the RN’s back-to-school days, she unveiled a “Declaration of the Rights of Peoples and Nations”, a sort of charter supposed to “work towards universal peace” which she would like to see signed by several countries. Enough to fuel the electoral war a little more.