Far-Right Parties Plan European Coalition

Far-right political parties in Europe are planning to form a new coalition to battle what they see as threats from immigration and Islam.

Four ultraconservative groups — all with ties to anti-Semitism, racism or xenophobia — announced in January that they would band together to create a European party to be called the "European Freedom Party" or "European Patriotic Party." They claim they're recruiting other groups to join the organization.

"We say: patriots of all the countries of Europe, unite! Because only together will we solve our problems," Austria's Freedom Party leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, told journalists.

The groups include France's National Front, whose leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has twice been fined for downplaying the Holocaust. Most recently, he was convicted in February of denying a crime against humanity and complicity in condoning war crimes over remarks he made to a far-right magazine in 2005. He told Rivarol that the Nazi occupation of France was "not particularly inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses — inevitable in a country of 55,000 square kilometers." He also said the German army wasn't to blame for the 1944 killing of 86 men in the northern town of Villeneuve d'Ascq.

He was fined 10,000 euros (about $16,000) and received a suspended jail sentence of three months. Le Pen was also fined in 1987 after characterizing the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history." Nonetheless, Le Pen has enjoyed some political success, finishing second in France's 2002 presidential elections.

And Le Pen isn't the only National Front leader who's been linked to anti-Semitism. The party's second in command, Bruno Gollnisch, was convicted of Holocaust denial last year.

The groups forming the new coalition also include Austria's Freedom Party; its former leader, Jorg Haider, has long been accused of harboring Nazi sympathies. The other two groups are the Bulgarian Attaca party and Belgium's Vlaams Belang, whose predecessor, Vlaams Blok, was banned as a racist party in that country.

Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party, has also called for right-wing cooperation. "We are the generation that has to face down the drive from Wahhabist Islam to conquer Europe, mainly through immigration, high birth rates, conversion propaganda and the inherent weakness of liberalism," he told the Austrian Freedom Party's newspaper, Zur Zeit.