France's right-wing National Rally party formally joined a new alliance of far-right forces in Europe on Friday. The populist coalition, spearheaded by Italy's anti-immigrant interior minister and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, was formed to unite and strengthen disparate right-wing parties ahead of critical EU elections next month.
"Heartfelt thanks to National Rally leader Marine Le Pen and our historic friends and allies of the National Rally for joining the Milan manifesto ‘Towards a Europe of Common Sense,'” Salvini tweeted.
Salvini, the leader of Italy's League party, announced the launch of the pan-European far-right faction earlier this month at a press conference where he called the EU "a nightmare, not a dream” and vowed to reform the bloc.
The group, dubbed the European Alliance of Peoples and Nations (EAPN), has already attracted support from:
- Alternative for Germany (AfD)
- Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ)
- The Danish People's Party,
- Finland's Finns Party
- The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
The move comes days after Le Pen renounced her support of France leaving the European Union in a ‘Frexit' in favor of reforming the European project from the inside. Her announcement came just ahead of a meeting of European far-right leaders in Prague on Thursday.
European far-right parties are currently split between three different groups in the European Parliament. If the parties were to merge, they would hold 173 out of 751 seats in the EU parliamentary assembly, or 23%, which would make them the second-largest bloc in the European Parliament, according to the latest poll of polls released by the EU assembly.