Dutch Anti-EU Leader Wilders Aims to Repatriate Powers

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders said an alliance of anti-European Union groups that are drawing increasing support will push to repatriate powers to national capitals after next week’s European Parliament elections.

“We can indeed change the European Union in a way that they will reverse course and send more powers back to the national parliaments,” Wilders told reporters in The Hague today.

Wilders’s party is running neck-and-neck with the Democrats D66 in opinion polls before the May 22 vote in the Netherlands, with both set to take five of the 26 seats at stake, according to projections by PollWatch 2014 published today. The Freedom Party has gained backing at a national level as support for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition of Labor and Liberals has declined.

There’s a similar picture in other EU countries. In France, Ifop’s daily rolling poll shows Marine Le Pen’s National Front taking 24 percent of the vote, compared with 22.5 percent for the UMP, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, and 17 percent for the ruling Socialists. In Britain, the U.K. Independence Party led by Nigel Farage, which seeks withdrawal from the 28-nation bloc, is challenging for first place in the European vote next week.

To give his anti-European voice more clout, Wilders is looking for allies within Europe. He approached Farage and Le Pen in a bid to create a broader political grouping in the European Parliament.

Join Forces

Wilders and Le Pen announced their intention last November to join forces ahead of the European elections. “We are not looking for a merging of the parties but cooperation in a political group”, Wilders said today.

Farage has said he’s not interested in working with either the Dutch or the French party. UKIP has said the Front National contains elements of “prejudice and anti-Semitism,” while Wilders, who is critical of Islam, is facing legal complaints in the Netherlands over anti-Moroccan chanting at an election rally.

“I understand Mr Farage is not too positive about cooperating with us today -- he has not so much problems with my party, at least he’s keeping the door open, but more problems with the Front National,” Wilders said, expressing the hope that “after the elections next week he might have more room to work together.”

About 5,000 complaints alleging discrimination had been filed against Wilders by last month over the election rally, Tuscha Essed, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office in The Hague, said by phone yesterday. There’s been no decision yet on whether to take legal action as the issue is complex, she said.

Wilders was acquitted by a court in Amsterdam in 2011 of charges that he made remarks defaming Muslims, ending a three-year prosecution that he described as a bid to restrict his freedom of speech.

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