Steve Bannon won't control Europe's populists: Le Pen

France's Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, saying only Europeans can "save Europe." The far-right leader was concerned her party could be tainted by association.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Monday that it was not up to an American like former White House strategist Steve Bannon to rescue Europe from bureaucrats in Brussels.

"Bannon is not European. He is American," Le Pen, the head of the National Rally (RN) party, told a press conference in Rome. "It is us and only us who will shape the political force resulting from European elections, because we are attached to our liberty, attached to our sovereignty."

Le Pen was speaking alongside right-wing Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini at an event aimed to present a united front ahead of the EU parliamentary polls. Europe's anti-EU populists are hoping to make big gains in the May 2019 vote.

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Steve Bannon addresses France's far-right party congress

Bannon on a mission

Bannon has announced plans to set up a think tank called The Movement in Brussels to boost right-wing parties across the continent. In recent months, he has been reaching out to possible allies in Europe in a bid to drum up support for a pan-European, anti-establishment campaign.

Salvini, who heads the anti-immigrant League and is Italy's deputy prime minister, met Bannon last month and has also reportedly signed onto The Movement. In March, Bannon spoke at a party congress for Le Pen's National Front, which was later renamed National Rally. Its vice-president Louis Aliot said the French party would also join Bannon's foundation.

Steve Bannon spoke alongside Le Pen at a Front National congress in March

But at Monday's conference, Le Pen stressed: "It is we who represent the different peoples in Europe, who structure the political force that aims specifically to save Europe. Let that be very clear."

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Italy's anti-EU rhetoric

Revolution in Europe

Salvini told reporters there needed to be a "common sense revolution" to oust "those cut off in the bunker of Brussels."

He also attacked EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici — who have criticized Italy's budget plans — saying they had "brought insecurity and fear to Europe and refuse to leave their armchairs."

His comments were echoed by Le Pen, who characterized progress in the bloc as "pathetic."

"The EU was built on a lot of promises ... but very few are realized or provide results."

"We're not fighting against Europe but against the European Union that has become a totalitarian system," she said.

Read moreGermany's AfD rebuffs Steve Bannon plan to unite European populists

European populist parties have celebrated a series of electoral successes in recent years. Italy's populist government came to power in June. Earlier this year, Hungarian nationalist Victor Orban began serving his third term as prime minister. In Germany, the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) became the biggest opposition party after last year's election, and in Austria, right-wing populists make up the government.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

France: Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen has led France's far-right populist National Rally party, formerly known as the National Front, since 2011. Le Pen has tried to soften her party's far-right image, going as far as to expel her own father — the party's founder — from the party after he referred to Nazi gas chambers as "a point of detail of the history of World War II."

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Germany: Frauke Petry

Frauke Petry's anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies helped the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter the German parliament in 2017. She quit as leader of the AfD in September, 2017, due to what she said were extremist statements by other party leaders preventing "constructive opposition." She now sits as an independent in both the national and regional Saxony parliament in Germany.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Germany: Alice Weidel

Alice Weidel has been co-chair of the AfD since October, 2017 following Petry's departure. A 2013 email revealed Weidel describing Germany as being "overrun by culturally foreign people such as Arabs, Sinti and Roma." The email also described the government as "pigs" who were "puppets of WWII allies." Weidel's party opposes same-sex marriage, but she in a same-sex partnership herself.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Poland: Beata Szydlo

Beata Szydlo is the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and vice chairman of the right-wing populist Law and Justice party (PiS) that holds the majority in the parliament. The party is strongly against EU migrant quotas and in 2017, then-Prime Minister Szydlo came under fire for seemingly using an appearance at former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German death camp to highlight her anti-migrant policies.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Norway: Siv Jensen

Siv Jensen leads Norway's Progress party, which is a part of the center-right government coalition. She promotes individual rights and freedoms, and has listed former British Conservative Party Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher among her political heroes. Jensen is an outspoken supporter of Israel, and has called to move the Norwegian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Italy: Giorgia Meloni

Co-founder and leader of the national conservative Brothers of Italy party, Giorgia Meloni has a long history in far-right politics. She joined the Youth Front, the youth-wing of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, at age 15. From May 2008 to November 2011 Meloni was minister of youth under Silvio Berlusconi. Her party is currently in the center-right coalition that's in power in Italy.

Pia Kjaersgaard

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Denmark: Pia Kjaersgaard

Pia Kjaersgaard is co-founder of the far-right Danish People's Party, which she led from 1995 to 2012. She is known for her strong anti-multiculturalism and immigration views. Her main interests are stemming immigration into Denmark and care for the elderly. In 2003, she lost a libel suit in the Danish Supreme Court against anti-EU activist Karen Sunds who had said Kjaersgaard's views were racist.

nm/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)

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