Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian government and of the Lega party, called a second time to build an alliance between the conservatives and far right parties in the European Parliament (EP). A “League of the Leagues” ¹ aimed to become the most important group in the EP but which seems more difficult to achieve than expected.
July 2018: a first call.
A year ago, Matteo Salvini already supported the idea of a “League of the Leagues in Europe” during the annual assembly of his party, in Pontida. At that time, the project was no different: to create an alliance of European political parties which would defend their national borders. His objectives are to become both the first party of Italy and the first political group in the EP. If he succeeds, the Italian deputy prime minister could consider becoming the Spitzenkandidaten (leading candidate) of this new group.
Nevertheless, the project seemed far from being concretised and was neglected up until last month when Salvini reaffirmed his will to create the party group.
The 6th of April 2019: The European Alliance of People and Nations.
Monday the 6th of April, Matteo Salvini gathered with his European counterparts and urged once again the establishment of a European alliance. Among the guests you could find Jorg Meuthen from the nationalist and eurosceptic German party Alternative für Deutschland; Anders Vistisen from the Dansk Folkeparti, a Danish nationalist party ; and Olli Kotro, Finnish leader from the Finns Party.
Despite this remarkable guest list, most of the international newspapers decided to focus on the missing counterparts. For instance, the absence of Marine Le Pen from the French party Rassemblement National (RN) – ally of Salvini- was noticed. The Polish conservative party, Pawo i Sprawiedlivosc, lead by Kaczynski and Fidesz –Viktor Orban’s party- was also absent. In response to the absence of the RN, Salvini claimed that he was actually representing its group of the European Parliament (ENL), an information confirmed by the RN. In fact, in the actual assembly the sovereigntist parties are still divided in 3 different parliamentary groups: the Europe of Nations and Liberties (ENL), the European People Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). This diversity -which reflects the various political views- is often labelled under the simplistic notion of ‘populism’. Such differences suggest that the establishment of a “League of the Leagues” could be complicated.
Sovereignists’ motto: ‘United in diversity’ ?
The difficulties of an alliance between nationalist forces should not come as a surprise and rather seems to be in the essence of these movements devoted to promote and protect national specificities and interests.
only exist between parliamentary groups but also within the ENL
itself, in which the leadership is heavily disputed.
a long time,
Marine le Pen acted
a mentor for Salvini but since his
the head of the Italian government,
the balance of power was
In fact, the RN still suffers
old image as the Front
the previous name of the party,
while Matteo Salvini
managed to develop a
more normalized image of its party following his electoral success.
He therefore now benefits from his party being recognized as
This difference enables
him to get in contact with the PiS and Fidesz,
which are not labelled as
far right. Consequently,
the RN could lose its central position or even become a burden for
Moreover, the expulsion of Orban’s party from the EPP creates a new opportunity for Orban and Salvini to form an alliance which could further undermine the RN’s relationship with Salvini. Hence, this open door motivates the RN to look for new allies : Marine Le Pen is now seeking alliances with the other European nationalist such as the Belgian Vlaams Belang, or its Slovak and Czech counterparts⁴.
The ‘far right’ label has long been an issue delaying the emergence of a “League of the Leagues” because of the reluctance of some parties to be directly associated with far-right extremists and neo-Nazi movements. For instance, in 2013, the Danish sovereigntist party refused an alliance with the FN. However, in 2014, the FN was the one to refuse an alliance with the Greek party Golden Dawn and the Hungarian Jobbik as it saw them as too extreme⁶. More recently, Luigi di Maio, the leader of the Five Stars Movement (M5S), expressed some concern about Salvini’s new potential allies which he considers as anti-Semitic. ³
Nevertheless, the ‘far right label’ is not the only challenge that the alliance would have to overcome. The parties are also divided on the Russian issue. If the RN has a good relationship with Russia, this friendship is seen as a threat by the Polish, Danish, Finnish and Swedish nationalist parties, whose sovereignty issues are often directed against Russia. Riikka Purra, political advisor for the Finns Party even said that they had not trust in Marine Le Pen⁵.
The issue of European identity also creates discordances. When Italians, Polish or Czech are claiming that Christianity is a fundamental part of European identity, the French RN prefers to use the principle of laicity when dealing with issues related to Islam and multiculturalism. Similar perspectives also arise on the structure of the EU. While the RN wishes to change the Union from within and keep it as a union of sovereign nations, the SPD lead by Tomio Okamura in contrast, expresses the will to leave the Union.
At last, the potential allies tend to disagree over the future direction of economic policies. In fact, there is a considerable discrepancy between the German and Austrian perspectives on the one hand, which preach liberalism, and the Danish culture of social-democracy on the other hand, which supports a welfare state directed towards the nationals, or yet again the French RN which advocates for economic protectionism.
In response to these important divergences, Marine Le Pen declared that: “liberty for each nations”. United in diversity ironically became a motto for Euroscepticism. “This project is aimed for each nation to find its own way” argued the Danish Anders Vistisen³. He was also warning his counterparts against the risk of being divided by their common opponents when, according to him, the danger is more a matter of seeing the “European identity and multiculturalism” prevail over national identities.
A failure would not be a defeat: « Only the vote matters ».
No matter the differences of opinion and the diverse interests, Matteo Salvini already announced a meeting on the 18th of May 2019 in Milan, with twenty European sovereigntist parties -including the RN represented by Marine Le Pen- in order to build this alliance⁷. Nevertheless, a failure would not be a defeat. Just like Nicolas Bay, a European deputy for the RN, few people believe than such an alliance is possible. The alliance would mostly be a political symbol, a symbolic victory for Salvini. Regardless, in fact at the end ‘only the vote matters’ said Mattias Karlsson member of the democrats of Sweden.
Despite some common elements such as Euroscepticism, rejection of immigration, or hostility toward multiculturalism, diversity seems to be the key element to understand the so-called rise of populism in Europe. The adjective ‘populist’ is nowadays a convenient label to give to any party criticizing the EU, used and abused by the traditional political parties in order to delegitimize their opponents. The word ‘populist’ became a joke, preventing any debates to appear on some sensitive issues: immigration, cultural tensions or the crisis of legitimacy in the EU. This excessive use and misuse of the word, however, did not bring out any solution.
Considering this abusive usage of the world ‘populist’ in the media and political debates, we consider that a part of the mission of EU-logos Athéna is to clarify the meaning behind the word. Through the #LaRéplique section, we will try to analyse the European politics while bearing in mind the necessity to be clear about the meaning that is given to political notions -such as populism- that are too often overused and tend to lose their meaning or become a ‘catch-all’.
In this perspective and waiting for some additional development, it could be more useful to refer to an article on populism, published two years ago on our website but nevertheless still relevant today: #La Réplique : de la bonne utilisation du terme « populiste » by Rémi Petitcol.
For more information:
Petitcol.R : #La Réplique : de la bonne utilisation du terme « populiste », Eu-Logos Athéna, mai 2017.
1 : Italie: Salvini lance l’idée d’une « Ligue des Ligues » en Europe, RTBF Belgique, Juillet 2018 : https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_italie-salvini-lance-l-idee-d-une-ligue-des-ligues-en-europe?id=9961496
2 : D’Angelo.R, A Rome, le Rassemblement national court après Matteo Salvini, Journal Du Dimanche, Mars 2019. :
3 : Européennes : Salvini lance un appel à tous les nationalistes, Paris Match, mars 2019. : https://www.parismatch.com/Actu/International/Europeennes-Salvini-lance-un-appel-a-tous-les-nationalistes-1617444
4 : Gauquelin.B, Hivert.A.F, Soullier.L : Marine Le Pen recherche alliés desespérement, Le Monde, 30 avril 2019.
5 : Masseli.F : Salvini réunit les souverainistes à Milan, mais son projet est en difficulté, L’Opinion, avril 2019. :
6 : Élections européennes : le mirage d’une grande alliance nationaliste voulue par Matteo Salvini,France 24, avril 2019. :
7 : Européennes 2019: Orban et Salvini sur la voie d’une «coopération» anti-immigration après les européennes, Le Soir Belgique, mai 2019. :
8 : L’Italien Matteo Salvini veut lancer une alliance souverainiste pour les européennes, RTBF belgique, avril 2019. :