The AfD and FN leaders to meet in Koblenz

On Saturday, the head of the Alternative for Germany Frauke Petry and Marine LePen from France's National Front are to meet at a gathering of European right-wing parties. This is a controversial event within the AfD.

Frauke Petry is careful about her reputation. She does not want to be seen as a right-wing extremist and nor does she want her party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), to be labeled as such. She has called the Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who held a controversial speech in which he criticized the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a "burden for the party." For a while, Petry's reservations have kept her from contacting Marine LePen from the France's National Front, which is considered to be at least a notch more radical than the AfD.

How radical is Europe's right?

Frauke Petry, Alternative for Germany (AfD)

The leader of the Alternative for Germany, Frauke Petry, said police could use guns as a last resort to prevent illegal border crossings, pointing out "that's the law." What began as a euroskeptic party has turned into an anti-establishment and anti-EU force, claiming up to 25 percent of votes in German state elections in March 2016 and taking second place in Chancellor Angela Merkel's home state.

How radical is Europe's right?

Marine Le Pen, National Front (France)

Many believe Brexit and Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections could give new impetus to France's National Front. Established in 1972 and now led by Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011, the National Front is a nationalist party that uses populist rhetoric to promote its anti-immigration and anti-EU positions.

How radical is Europe's right?

Geert Wilders, Party for Freedom (The Netherlands)

The leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, is one of Europe's most prominent right-wing politicians. He was convicted in December for asking a crowd in 2014 if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country, but no penalty was imposed. His party is considered anti-EU and anti-Islam. It is leading polls ahead of next year's parliamentary elections and currently holds 15 seats.

How radical is Europe's right?

Nikos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn (Greece)

Nikos Michaloliakos is the head of Greece's neo-fascist party Golden Dawn. He was arrested in September 2013 along with dozens of other party members and charged with forming a criminal organization. Michaloliakos was released in July 2015. Golden Dawn won 18 seats in parliamentary elections in September 2016. The party holds anti-immigrant views and favors a defense agreement with Russia.

How radical is Europe's right?

Gabor Vona, Jobbik (Hungary)

Hungary's anti-immigration, populist and economic protectionist party Jobbik aspires to be in the government by 2018. Now Hungary's third-largest party, it won 20 percent of votes in the last elections held in 2014. It wants a referendum on EU membership. Jobbik also advocates criminalizing "sexual deviancy," submitting a bill targeting homosexuals in 2012. Jobbik is headed by Gabor Vona.

Flash-Galerie Schweden vor der Wahl Jimmie Åkesson (AP)

How radical is Europe's right?

Jimmie Akesson, Sweden Democrats

After Trump's election, Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson said in an interview with Swedish TV: "There is a movement in both Europe and the United States where the establishment is being challenged. It is clearly happening here as well." The Sweden Democrats call for restricting immigration, are against allowing Turkey to join the EU and want a referendum on EU membership.

How radical is Europe's right?

Norbert Hofer, Freedom Party (Austria)

Norbert Hofer of Austria's nationalist Freedom Party lost the recent presidential runoff by a mere 30,000 votes, after being front-runner in the first round. Former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen won 50.3 percent of the vote, with Hofer gaining 49.7 percent. The Freedom Party's leader campaigns for the strengthening of the country's borders and limiting benefits for immigrants.

How radical is Europe's right?

Marian Kotleba, People's Party - Our Slovakia

The leader of the hard-right People's Party - Our Slovakia, Marian Kotleba, has said, "Even one immigrant is one too many." On another occasion, he called NATO a "criminal organization." This Slovak party favors leaving the EU as well as the eurozone. It won 8 percent of the vote in March 2016 elections, securing 14 seats in the country's 150-member parliament.

Despite that fact  - or maybe even due to that fact - the National Front is still successful. In the last European elections, it was the strongest party in France and many even believe that Marine LePen could run as a candidate in the presidential elections in April and May. The two parties do not differ greatly in their general ideas. They are both against immigration, view Islam critically and they reject the European Union and the euro – at least in their current state – and they would like to reinforce the nation as an entity. The same holds true for Dutch politician Geert Wilders from the Party for Freedom.

Meuthen: 'Nothing to do with AfD'

Last summer, Frauke Petry secretly met Marine LePen. Now she is seeking public appearances with LePen, Wilders and Matteo Salvini from the Italian Lega Nord. Nonetheless, the AfD itself is not hosting the party gathering. Petry's new husband, the head of North Rhine Westphalia's AfD, arranged the meeting. He is a member of European Parliament for the AfD and as a lone MEP joined the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) parliamentary group, whose driving force is the National Front. Pretzell's only party colleague in Strasbourg, Beatrix von Storch, is a member of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFD), which is mostly run by Britain's UKIP and the Italian Five Star Movement.

Beatrix von Storch and Marcus Pretzell

There are people in the AfD who think Petry's appearance at the gathering is wrong. "That is a pure ENF matter that has nothing to do with the AfD," says Jörg Meuthen, who ironically makes up the party's leadership duo with Petry. Even the Berlin AfD chairman Georg Pazderski says that the AfD should distance itself from the National Front, as its economic policies are too "socialist" for him. The FN does indeed advocate isolationism and anti-globalization, unlike the economically liberal AfD.

The nationalists present themselves as international

The right-wing groups that have gathered in Koblenz do not mention their differences. "In Koblenz, leading politicians of a new Europe are gathering together. They stand on the brink of assuming government responsibilities in their countries," is written prematurely on the invitation. In March, parliamentary elections will be held in The Netherlands; in April and May, the French will vote for a new president and in September, a new German parliament will be elected.

In all three elections, the right-wing parties will probably achieve good results, but no one is predicting that they will run governments. Emmanuelle Reungoat from the University of Montpellier believes that LePen, Wilders and Petry want to capitalize on each other's popularity. Claire Demesmay from the German Council on Foreign Relations adds, "for these parties, it is very important to show that they have international partners."

France's Marine le Pen of the National Front

It is obvious that not everyone is enthusiastic about the gathering. The city of Koblenz is concerned about its image. The Social Democrat (SPD) mayor Joachim Hofmann-Göttig said, "The right-wing populists are cordially unwelcome." Yet legally, he could not prevent the populists from renting the Rhein-Mosel-Halle conference hall. "If we had not done it, they would have sued," added the mayor.

He will, however, be pleased about the fact that a broad counter-alliance with the slogan "Koblenz remains diverse" has formed and will demonstrate on Saturday. The head of the SPD and deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wants to join the march as do representatives of the Green Party, the left-wing party Die Linke and even the Social Democrat foreign minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn. "We cannot leave the destiny of the continent in the hands of the nationalists," Asselborn told the German Press Agency.

Not only is the meeting of the right-wing populists controversial, but their dealings with the press are as well. Pretzell has denied many press members accreditation because of their allegedly one-sided coverage. This includes all public broadcasters. They still intend to provide live coverage, as does Deutsche Welle.