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Fri Sep 2, 2016, 07:57 PM

Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen: one of them will shape Europe’s future

Two very different women hold Europe’s future in their hands – and neither of them is Theresa May. The battle for Europe’s soul is being waged between Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen. This is a clash of personalities and visions: Germany’s chancellor v the leader of France’s Front National, the largest far-right party in Europe. As Britain prepares to leave the EU, the Franco-German dimension of the continent’s destiny has arguably never been so important since the end of the cold war.

It is only partly reassuring to say that Le Pen has little chance of becoming president next year (the French electoral system makes that difficult). The trouble is, in recent months, her brand of anti-Muslim, xenophobic and nationalistic politics has spread across the French mainstream right like wildfire. Le Pen is fast capitalising on this summer’s burkini episode and on the national trauma left by jihadi terrorism.

Marine Le Pen’s single most powerful opponent is to be found outside France: Angela Merkel. Le Pen hates Merkel, and Merkel despises Le Pen. They confront each other in a fight of European proportions. Le Pen has often attacked the chancellor – once describing her as an “empress” imposing “illegal immigration” on the whole of Europe.

These two women have one thing in common and one thing only: the depth of their political conviction. Angela Merkel has been unwavering in her message that welcoming refugees is the right thing to do; Le Pen fumes against “rampant Islamisation” of the continent. Merkel wants to save the European project; Le Pen is fully aligned with forces that want to dismantle it (she recently said on CNN that France had become an EU “province”). Merkel nurtures the transatlantic link; Le Pen admires Putin’s Russia – her party sits at the heart of pro-Kremlin networks in Europe, financial ones among them.


The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee mentality on the right seems to be a growing phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic. The battle must be waged to defeat it.

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