PRAGUE (AP) — Far-right populists in Europe vowed Saturday to work together to create a new model of intercontinental cooperation that is far removed from the European Union.
Leaders of parties from France, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Britain and other countries met in Prague to discuss ideas for Europe’s future under the headline “For a Europe of Sovereign Nations.”
They attacked the EU for its migrant policies, accused its leader of trying to create a super state run by Brussels and praised U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to migration.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, blamed the EU for getting “everything wrong.”
“Because we love Europe, we accuse the EU of killing Europe,” Le Pen told reporters. She said parties like hers want to save Europe “by preserving nation-states.”
“We are not xenophobes, we are opponents of the European Union,” Le Pen said. “I think this is something we have in common, because the European Union is a disastrous organization which is leading our continent to destruction through dilution by drowning it in migrants, by the negation of our respective countries, by the draining of our diversity.”
Geert Wilders, founder of the Dutch anti-Islam Party for Freedom, followed suit.
“My party is convinced that the Netherlands would be better off outside the European Union, and it will be better for our economy, for our security,” Wilders said.
Wilders singled out immigration and “Islamization” of Europe as the most pressing issues.
“We must have the courage, to introduce travel bans as President Trump has done in the United States,” he said. “We must have the courage to restrict legal immigration instead of expanding it. We must have the courage to repatriate the illegal immigrants.”
Parties with anti-immigration platforms have been making gains at the polls in Europe, although Wilders and Le Pen both ran unsuccessfully this year for the top political posts in their countries.
More recently, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party became a partner in a new coalition government after receiving more than a quarter of the vote in a parliamentary election.
Le Pen called it “very good news, excellent news for Europe.”
The meeting was hosted by the most anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party in the Czech Republic, Freedom and Direct Democracy. It finished fourth in October’s parliamentary election, winning 22 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament.
The party wants to ban Islam, which it calls an ideology of hate. Its chairman, Tomio Okamura, is currently a deputy speaker of the house.
Hundreds protesters joined a peaceful rally against the far-right gathering in Prague on Saturday.