Far-right leaders from across Europe will meet in Germany
Leaders of eurosceptic movements from France, Germany and Italy will come together in the city of Koblenz to discuss a possible political pact which could hand them more influence within the EU.
Symbolically, they will get together on January 21 – the first day of billionaire tycoon Donald Trump's stint as US President and a day after his inauguration.
The meeting will bring together Ms Le Pen, the French presidential candidate and leader of the Front National, with counterparts from the EU’s other two great powers for the first time.
She will hold talks with Alternative fur Deutschland’s (AfD) Frauke Petry and the Italian Legia Nord’s Matteo Salvini at the conference, which will also be attended by the possible future Dutch leader Geert Wilders.
Ms Le Pen and AfD leader Frauke Petry will meet for the first time
A number of European leaders including Angela Merkel are facing election battles this year
The meeting, which is being dubbed a “European counter-summit”, will spook EU leaders who fear that anti-establishment parties are on the march ahead of a series of crunch elections.
The Netherlands and France will hold elections in March in the first major test facing the European establishment since the Brexit vote in June and Hungarian and Italian referendums in December.
Mr Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom is on course to become the biggest party in the Dutch parliament, whilst Ms Le Pen is widely predicted to reach the final round of the French presidential vote.
Angela Merkel, seen as the EU’s lynchpin, faces her own battle to get re-elected in the autumn under intense pressure from political opponents including the AfD over her open door migration policies.
And Italy must hold a general election by the end of next year after left-wing prime minister Matteo Renzi was unceremoniously booted out by voters in an anti-Brussels backlash.
On the surface the conference is being called to formulate a joint strategy for the upcoming national votes, whilst plans will also be put in place for European Parliament elections due in 2019.
The party leaders are expected to mainly discuss political issues on which they agree, such as the controversial euro single currency and tougher immigration controls.
But senior AfD figure Georg Pazderski suggested there was a rift in his party over its participation at the meeting, suggesting that Ms Le Pen’s Front National is too politically different to be working with.
He said: “I find the National Front does not suit us at all. The FN is a socialist party. Personally I have reservations.”
FACTS about Marine Le Pen
Wed, November 23, 2016
Marine Le Pen is a French politician who is the president of the National Front, a national-conservative political party in France and one of its main political forces.
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A French politician who is the president of the National Front (FN), a national-conservative political party in France and one of its main political forces.
There has also been criticism of the meeting’s organisers to apparently ban some media from covering it, including the German broadcaster ARD which the AfD has accused of treating it unfairly.
The channel’s programme director Volker Herres blasted what he described as a “cherry picking” of friendly journalists, and said the broadcaster's editors "condemn this massive encroachment against the freedom to report”.
He said: ”It is a loss for our audience that we won't be able to report on the meeting of right-wing populist parties in Europe.
"This gathering is of great importance for the future political course of this movement."