French nationalist Marine Le Pen visits Estonia

Shortly after the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party was included in the country’s government, the French nationalist populist politician, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party, came to Estonia for a visit.

The National Rally party is known as a right-wing populist and nationalist political party in France. Most political commentators place it on the far-right, but some suggest that the party’s position on the political spectrum is more difficult to define clearly.

The party’s major policies include opposition to French membership in NATO, European Union, the Schengen Area, and the eurozone. As an anti-European Union party, the National Rally has opposed the European Union since its creation. The party also supports greater government intervention in the economy, protectionism, a zero-tolerance approach to law and order, and significant cuts to legal immigration.

Marine Le Pen has been the leader of the National Rally since 2011, and she’s run for president in France twice. In 2012, she came third in the presidential election with 17.9% of the vote, behind Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2017, she finished second in the first round of the election with 21.3% of the vote, but lost the vote to the centrist Emmanuel Macron in the second round, having received approximately 33.9% of the vote.

Le Pen invited herself

It’s not very clear why she’s visiting Estonia. An MP of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), Jaak Madison, wrote on Facebook on 6 May that “soon, the most popular French nationalist, Marine Le Pen, will be visiting Estonia, together with other right-wingers”. However, on 9 May, Madison also said he didn’t invite Le Pen to visit Estonia, “she’s coming on her own”.

Whichever may be the truth, the fact is, when Le Pen landed in Tallinn on 13 May, Madison was one of the first to greet her, among other Estonian people. News portal Delfi reports that Le Pen was pleasantly flattered by the attention she got at the airport from the media and gladly posed in front of the cameras. She didn’t give any comments, though, promising to do that at a press conference.

On 14 May, she met with members of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and also some other nationalist politicians from the neighbouring countries, namely members of the True Finns of Finland and the Danish National Party. A press conference is to follow.

It’s peculiar that the anti-Russia Estonian Conservative People’s Party is cosying up to the French nationalist leader. Le Pen has previously justified annexing the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory, by the Russian Federation, and has said that NATO should change its mission to fighting terrorism and Islamism and should, therefore, accept Russia.

A security risk?

She has also met with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, saying that Putin was representing a “new vision” of the world.

Moreover, on 10 September 2015, Le Pen voted against a European Parliament resolution that demanded the release of the Estonian security official, Eston Kohver, who had been kidnapped by Russian agents.

Some Estonian politicians are wary of Le Pen’s visit to Estonia. The main candidate to the European Parliament from the Isamaa (Fatherland) party, Riho Terras, told the Estonian media that he’s suspicious of the claim that Le Pen invited herself to Estonia and noted that he was questioning whether the Estonian Conservative People’s Party cared about Estonia’s security.

“The attitude towards Russia should be the main reason why to keep away from Le Pen and other populists,” Terras told the Estonian media. “Now it seems that when Estonia’s security is in consideration, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party is ready to close their eyes.”

“That politician is someone who’s against the NATO presence in Eastern Europe, who thinks that the Crimea belongs to Russia and who thinks the sanctions against Russia should be dropped,” Terras added.

Isamaa in coalition with the far-right

Strong words from someone who’s running for the European Parliament, but we can’t forget the fact that Terras is a member of the party that voluntarily joined the current governing coalition with the Conservative People’s Party and the Centre Party.

Not only is the Conservative People’s Party cosying up to European nationalists and other far-right movements, the Centre Party has an active cooperation agreement with United Russia, the party of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Moreover, Terras’s party, Isamaa, joined a government lead by the Centre Party already in 2016 together with the Social Democrats. And the leader of the Centre Party and the prime minister, Jüri Ratas, has constantly said he was not willing to cancel his party’s cooperation agreement with United Russia.

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Cover: Marine Le Pen meeting EKRE MPs in Tallinn, 14 May 2019 (Facebook).