It is not uncommon in the National Assembly for Marine Le Pen’s teams to have difficulty hiding a smile when they wrong-foot observers. The RN group likes to go where it is least expected to overplay respect for institutions and concern for the country’s interest. Or demonstrate that it would have become an open party on a societal level, as in November 2022 when the boss of the RN announced to everyone’s surprise that she was going to table an amendment to constitutionalize abortion. The Palais-Bourbon, like a showcase of demonization.
But the situation is very different in the European Parliament. Within this institution, whose debates, often technical, often pass under the media radar, the 18 RN MEPs show themselves faithful to a populist line, going against the “constructive” strategy followed in Paris.
The refusal of a “punitive ecology”
To verify this, we must take the subjects one by one, starting with that of the climate crisis. While Jordan Bardella now claims to put the issue of ecology on top of his pile, the RN delegation in Strasbourg abstains or votes against most environmental texts in the name of refusing a “punitive ecology”.
Too bad if Marine Le Pen defended, during the last European elections, in 2019, what she called “fair exchange”, that is to say the taking into account of social and environmental requirements in commercial exchanges: the RN abstained in June 2022 on the carbon tax at Europe’s borders.
“Certainly, I support a carbon adjustment mechanism at our borders, which is a way of protecting European companies from unfair competition from third countries. However, the proposed mechanism is unrealistic and exposes our companies to a significant risk of loss of competitiveness, which is not acceptable in the current economic context,” explains RN MEP Gilles Lebreton.
A resolution on rising energy prices
In Paris, the RN is calling for a tax on superprofits linked to inflation? Good thing, on October 5, 2022, a resolution on the rise in energy prices in Europe invites the Commission to introduce a “tax on exceptional profits against energy companies” in order to help “the vulnerable households and SMEs, including through price caps”. However, RN MEPs are the only ones to vote against, unlike their other colleagues in the Identity and Democracy (ID) group.
Proof that the RN is aware of these fragilities, it repeatedly mentions the “aspects” on which the party could “be put in difficulty” in an internal strategic document that we consulted, which takes stock of the mandate.
“On our opposition to the financing of the recovery plan: we continue to denounce the federalist leap and the financing of the plan with new own resources, while having voted for the principle of massive aid and called for the possibility of more aid. ‘State (…), while denouncing France’s unbearable levels of debt,’ the document concedes, for example, as an apparent contradiction.
He also recognizes certain shortcomings: “On competition policy and in particular the control of concentrations (…): we have not to date formalized our doctrine. The question is whether we intend to protect, as currently, extensive competition to the detriment of the creation of European champions (e.g. ban on the Siemens Alstom merger in 2019) or the opposite,” ponders the RN.
“Our positioning will be delicate”
Another example, if Marine Le Pen often mentions the condition of women in Paris, the RN delegation abstains in February 2023 on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, a legally binding international instrument on the prevention and fight against violence against women. towards women. “The EU is not legitimate to ratify this type of convention, the legitimacy lies with the States,” Jordan Bardella had defended in the past.
On March 30, the RN also abstained on the directive on equal pay between men and women for identical work. In its report, the RN mentions its opposition to the next directive “to fight against violence against women and domestic violence”. “Once again, our positioning will be delicate because this text does not respect the skills of the Member States,” he worries.
Very few votes in favor of Ukraine
Perhaps even more spectacular are the positions taken on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In France, the RN is keen to distance itself from the accusation of complacency vis-à-vis Moscow. Hence Jordan Bardella’s eagerness to settle his party’s bank debt with a Russian establishment or the request for a parliamentary investigation into foreign interference in the National Assembly which aimed to whitewash the party.
The tone is different in Brussels. If the RN has indeed condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the wake of it, in February 2022, it rarely votes on the numerous pro-Ukrainian resolutions of the European Parliament. The latest example was on October 17, when aid of 50 billion euros was voted to help Ukraine rebuild.
“If we are in favor of helping Ukraine financially, I abstained on this proposal, which was criticized by the European Court of Auditors for the opacity of its spending, reimbursement and monitoring mechanisms, and which openly promotes Ukraine’s accession to the EU”, justifies the head of the RN delegation Jean-Paul Garraud.
Marine Le Pen’s instructions
“Diplomacy and the search for compromise with other states must always be preferred to military solutions to resolve geopolitical problems. In this logic, we will be attacked for inaction regarding the creation of defense Europe and, consequently, we will be accused of playing into the hands of Russia and China,” recognizes the RN assessment document.
Eyes are particularly focused on RN MEP Thierry Mariani, still co-president of the Franco-Russian Dialogue, an openly pro-Kremlin lobby. He and two other RN MEPs are also part of a “black list” of the European Parliament for having accepted trips offered by Moscow and no longer have the right to participate in official delegations.
“Sometimes we vote according to our convictions but sometimes also simply because we consider that the question asked should not fall within the competence of the EU,” defends a senior RN. Furthermore, in Brussels, RN parliamentarians still suffer from the existence of a cordon santé which prevents them from being as influential as their position as the largest contingent of French MEPs (on a par with Renaissance) should allow them.
Certainly, in the National Assembly, the RN cannot get its legislative proposals adopted by the other groups either. But Marine Le Pen issued a firm instruction: to work and behave. Instruction which seems to have missed the Thalys.
“They are only in posture”
“The RN does not exist in the European Parliament. It’s ectoplasm,” attacks Renaissance MEP Pascal Canfin head-on. “They are not at all trying to change anything but they are only in the posture,” continues the one who observes that “most of their amendments are rejection amendments”.
The thousands of votes in the RN plenary session would rather give the impression that the party is holding its own against its French counterparts. This data, however, has the effect of a sham, because financial penalties are applied in the event of absence. Attendance, here, is not an option. But it is elsewhere that everything is at stake: through work in committee, in negotiations on texts, and in the production of reports.
“I have never seen an RN deputy in a negotiation phase,” says rebellious MEP Manon Aubry. “They’re not here, it’s astonishing. They have not moved a comma of amendment in five years,” slips the LR leader, François-Xavier Bellamy. Pascal Canfin swears for his part that he has never seen an RN negotiator on any of the forty texts of the European “green deal”, unlike other far-right parties such as the AfD (Germany) or the Lega (Italy). “They work,” a French elected official is forced to admit.
No real victory for them
The affair of the jobs of supposedly fictitious parliamentary assistants (which also concerns the MoDem and LFI) which is pursuing the RN adds grist to the mill of those who accuse the frontists of being little invested in Brussels. At the end of September, the Paris prosecutor’s office requested a trial for 27 people linked to the flame party in this case, over the period 2012-2017. Marine Le Pen is one of them, but not Jordan Bardella.
“Our adversaries have excluded us from all positions of responsibility, including when it comes to entrusting reports. They are applying the sanitary cordon! », defends Jean-Paul Garraud. “Each MP works in his committee. We sometimes succeed, with the help of our partners, in blocking things. We are working to resist,” swears the elected official.
No real victory for them on the mandate… apart from the adoption of a report on artificial intelligence written by MEP Gilles Lebreton. Which should not be renewed on the next European list.
Jordan Bardella does not shine in Brussels for his statistics
Head of the list in 2019 and again for 2024, Jordan Bardella is a sharp speaker but does not shine in Brussels for his statistics. He is also a member of only one committee in the European Parliament: the Petitions Committee (renamed “the hidden committee” because of its low activity).
“I don’t have much in common politically with François-Xavier Bellamy (LR), comments Manon Aubry. But he works, he is known in Brussels, unlike Jordan Bardella. » “Jordan has a lot of other activities (interim president, then president of the RN since September 2021), we try to defend it on the RN side. Out of a spirit of responsibility, he chose the least busy commission. » The meaning of sacrifice.
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