Improve the EU? Let it collapse, says France's Le Pen

The leader of France's far right National Front, which is expected to score well in upcoming European polls, pledged Thursday to do all in her power to facilitate the collapse of the EU.

Marine Le Pen's National Front is just one of several anti-immigration and anti-EU parties gaining traction in Europe, where many have lost faith in the ability of the European Union to help resolve a devastating economic crisis.

"How to improve the European Union? By making it collapse.... I expect one thing only from the European system and that's for it to explode," Marine Le Pen told journalists at her party's headquarters in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

"We have to wait for everything to fall flat on its face, contribute to that if possible, to bring about the project of a Europe of free nations," said Le Pen, who is already a Member of the European Parliament(MEP).

"And that of course can only happen with the disappearance of a huge majority of current EU structures."

Le Pen has forged an alliance with Dutch anti-Islamic leader Geert Wilders aimed at creating a Eurosceptic block at the European Parliament after elections due in May.

This could also include Belgium's Vlaams Belang, Italy's Northern League and Austria's Freedom Party.

"The role that we will have to play -- we, patriotic elected representatives at the European Parliament -- will mainly be to block this federal European Union from making any new headway," she said.

Le Pen believes that France has lost its sovereignty since the creation of the European Union and wants to see the EU open border policy abolished and an end to laws being made in Brussels for EU member states.

Support for Europe's extremist parties

Her views are shared by an increasing number of French voters, many of whom have been hit hard by economic austerity measures that are seen as coming from Brussels.

One poll conducted by research firm Ifop suggested the National Front could emerge as the leading party in France's European elections with the backing of 24 percent of voters.

In Italy, polls have also shown significant support for the Northern League, while Austria's Freedom Party finished a strong third in September general elections, with 20.5 percent of votes.

In a December interview, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso admitted that the rise of populist and extremist parties was a major concern.

"I am vehemently calling on Europeans to step out of the comfort zone, to quit their silence, to not always let extremes make their move, to have -- in France too -- the courage to defend Europe," he told AFP.

Since she took the presidency of the National Front in 2011, Le Pen has tried to shake off the racist image of a party widely associated with her father Jean-Marie, the target of a string of convictions for incitement to racial hatred and holocaust denial.

Under her leadership, the National Front has expelled overtly racist activists and selected a number of ethnic minority candidates for local elections.

And while critics maintain this is pure window-dressing, the appeal of her party appears to be broadening. The National Front took nearly 18 percent of the vote in the first round of the 2012 presidential elections, a historic score.

Le Pen's carefully measured comments on Islam -- she says has nothing against the religion but rejects Islamic fundamentalism -- contrast sharply with that of her European partner Wilders.

The Dutch politician is firmly against Islam and the Koran, which he calls a "fascist book" and has compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

"He has a more radical vision of Islam than I have," she said, acknowledging their "divergences" on the issue.

And while she has ruled out any inclusion of Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in their anti-EU alliance, Nigel Farage, head of Britain's eurosceptic UK Independence Party, has rebuffed her advances.

"He doesn't want to, because we're sort of the devil," she said.

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