Amidst Trump’s inauguration, it may have escaped some of your attentions that there was a meeting of far-right European leaders, hosted by Alternative fur Deutschland in the Rhineland city of Korblenz. Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, the whole far-right gang were there at a conference, open to all the public. They gave speeches and posed for selfies with one another. Nigel Farage was otherwise engaged in the US or he would have no doubt shown up too.
There are two really significant things about the Koblenz meeting. One, this is very unusual behaviour for the European far-right. Generally, the leaders in question stay away from each other. They tend not to want to seem like a Europe wide movement; appearing under one banner together shows how they clearly feel the times are a’ changin’. They don’t feel like associating with nationalists from other EU countries is toxic any longer, but in fact could be electorally rewarding. There was a time when someone like Wilders would have not only not shared a platform with Le Pen, but would have denounced her as being nothing like him. A sort of, “I’m just a liberal who is ‘realistic’ about Islam, not a fascist!” vive. It is notable that this reservation has fallen by the wayside completely now.
The other notable thing about the Koblenz far-right conference is that they have clearly been inspired by Trump to come out into the open this way. As Wilder himself said at the conference itself:
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, there are better times ahead. Last year the wind began to turn. That brought us the victory of United States President Donald Trump.”
“Yesterday a new America, today Koblenz, and tomorrow a new Europe”.
They were all at it this weekend, praising Trump as the sort of saviour of the European far-right. And all of this got barely any attention in the UK mainstream press. Perhaps historians will give it a lot more attention decades hence. This was the moment the far-right took their next step towards possible dominance in Europe.