Massive protests are being expected ahead of the populist European Union Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group’s conference in the German city of Koblenz this weekend.
The ENF meeting will see many of the star politicians of the various populist parties in Europe attend the meeting such as French Front National leader Marine Le Pen, Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Frauke Petry, Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders, Italian Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini and Freedom Party of Austria European parliament leader Harald Vilimsky.
The opposition to the meeting is expected to be large and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has commented on the event saying that he will seek to participate in the protest himself Die Presse reports.
“We can not leave the fate of this continent to the nationalists,” said Asselborn who went on to add: “It is necessary to work for a Europe of the 21st century and not for a Europe of the 19th century.”
He claimed he will participate in the protests because he sees himself as putting himself “against the EU destroyers” and said he wants to fight for, “an open Europe – a Europe where everyone has a place to participate in democracy, not fanaticism, exclusion and hatred.”
He said he has confidence that neither Marine Le Pen would win the French presidential elections this year, nor would Geert Wilders, who also will fight an election in 2017, form the next Dutch government.
Asselborn also criticized the ENF group’s move to restrict some German broadcasters from attending the event. The co-organizer of the event Marcus Pretzell, husband of AfD leader Frauke Petry, denied press credentials to the Associated Free Press as well as German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF.
“The freedom of the press includes not serving the rights of fake news,” Pretzell wrote on Twitter to justify his actions. Despite the exclusions, nearly 350 journalists have been accredited to cover the event.
Frank Überall, head of the DJV one of Germany’s journalist associations said, “It is a trampling of the freedom of the press to bar individual colleagues and media as well as the entire public broadcasting sector,” and added, “This is essentially the Trumpification of German politics.”
The last large meeting of the AfD occurred last year in Stuttgart and the protests were not only large but were also violent. Anti-AfD left-wing extremists fought and assaulted police and hundreds of arrests were made.
The populists are expected to discuss the upcoming elections this year in Germany, the Netherlands, and France with Ms. Petry, Mr Wilders and Mr. Salvini all speaking. The title of the conference is “2017: Year of the Patriots.”
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