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European far right leaders gather in Yalta to defend Russia's Crimea policy

Yalta, Crimea (by Marcin Konsek via Wikimedia Commons)

In early April the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin notified the German government that 22 individuals, including five lawmakers of the far right, anti-EU Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, and two of the socialist Left party, planned on attending the Yalta International Economic Forum in Russia. 

The 5th Yalta International Economic Forum titled "World. Russia. Crimea. New Global Reality" took place in the Crimean city of Yalta on April 17 - 20 for the purpose of attracting investment and promoting relations between Russia and foreign politicians willing to accept Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

At a conference held within the framework of the Forum, Head and Prime Minister of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov urged Friends of Crimea clubs to consolidate efforts to lift sactions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea.  

"We saw how many allies we have," Aksyonov said. "Today we understand that we are not doomed by the sanctions."

Friends of Crimea clubs were set up in 36 world nations to "promote Crimea’s interests and popularize information about the Crimean referendum and everyday life in Crimea," Russia's news agency TASS reported.  

More than 100 agreements worth 215 billion rubles (US$3.3 billion) were signed at the Yalta Forum.

But who are the "friends" on whom Russia can count on? 

Most of them belong to Europe's far right, whose anti-EU, anti-immigration, xenophobic platforms well suit Putin's agenda. 

One of the high-profile guests of the Forum was Marion Marechal, the granddaughter of French far right leader and founder of the National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen. 

"The Russians remember my positions in the French debate, very different from those of the liberal elite," Marechal told the French newspaper Le Monde. "They invite Europeans whom they perceive as good interlocutors for them."

In 2018 Marechal was invited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the United States. She told the crowd that France has fallen victim to “40 years of massive immigration, Islamic lobbies, and political correctness.” 

“Just like you," she stated, "we want our country back. I came here to tell you that there is a youth ready for this fight in Europe today (…) That is why I have recently launched a school of management and political science [to] train the leaders of tomorrow, those who will have the courage, the discernment and the skill to defend the interests of their people.” 

Marechal has followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, who in the 1980s and 1990s became the leader of France's anti-immigration, islamophobic right. 

Le Pen was by his own admission an admirer of Marshal Petain, who was a Nazi collaborator and the leader of the pro-German Republic of Vichy.

"Tomorrow the immigrants will move in with you, eat your soup and they will sleep with your wife, your daughter or your son," Le Pen told the French electorate in the 1980s. (Simmons, 1996, pp. 12, 144)

He stated that he supported the "right to be different", i.e. the right of every country to maintain its culture and traditions. He claimed that differences between races and cultures were "self-evident" facts and that immigrants should share their host country's culture or be encouraged to emigrate. To people who called him a racist, Le Pen responded by saying that those who supported policies that would result in the destruction of the French nation and culture were themselves anti-French racists. (Bardèche, 1996, pp. 207-208)

Germany's AfD is also a xenophobic party. The official AfD platform for the upcoming European Parliament elections in May states:

"[The] elites and institutions of the EU ... pursue a kind of asylum and immigration policy which poses an existential threat to European civilization. The population of Africa alone will grow by 800 million by 2050. Empirical surveys confirm that there are millions of people in these regions who are willing to emigrate. At the same time Europe's population is shrinking and aging. In Germany there are currently just 4 million men of German descent between the age of 20 and 35. A further opening of Europe to immigration from other continents will in the relative short term unavoidably lead to the marginalization of the native population."  

Delegates from Belgian, Italian and other European far right parties, as well as guests from Syria, attended the Yalta Forum.

Europe's political parties promoting a racist, xenophobic and nativist agenda opposed to universal human rights, democracy and the rule of law have found in Putin's Russia an ideal ally. 

On 12 March 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemdning Russia's "disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks, aimed at increasing tensions within the EU and its member states," and the violation of territorial waters and airspace of EU states, especially in the Baltic Sea region. The resolution called on the EU to adopt further sanctions against Russia, and restrict cooperation to key areas of common interests such as climate change and the fight against terrorism.  

Reference: Simmons, H. G. (1996). The French National Front: The Extremist Challenge to Democracy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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