French right-wing opposition leader Marine Le Pen waded into controversy over the appointment of an EU Commissioner for “protecting the European way of life”, endorsing a move that has stoked concern about rising populism across the continent.
Le Pen, leader of the former National Front, last year renamed the National Rally, hailed the appointment as an “ideological victory” during a speech on Sunday in which she also mapped out her path to another presidential run in 2022.
Addressing party faithful in the French Riviera town of Frejus, Le Pen sought to harness anti-government sentiment behind the country’s “yellow vest” protests, with renewed pledges to improve purchasing power, halt or reverse privatizations and tackle rural decline.
Incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen drew fire this week for assigning the “way of life” job description to the new commissioner responsible for migration – with critics deriding the title as a far-right slogan.
The appointment “speaks volumes”, said Le Pen, who has often criticized the European Union while stopping short of any vow to usher France out, amid limited “Frexit” support among voters.
“It confirms our ideological victory,” Le Pen said. Under pressure from national governments, she added, the European Union “has been forced to admit that immigration poses questions about the future of Europeans’ way of life.”