Germany’s AfD sets up talks with France’s Le Pen to clarify immigrant expulsion spat

Party chief wants to ‘set record straight’ with European partner after members accused of discussing mass deportations, prompting criticism from Le Pen

French far right party Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marine Le Pen during a press conference in Paris, on January 25, 2024. (ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)
French far right party Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marine Le Pen during a press conference in Paris, on January 25, 2024. (ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

BERLIN, Germany — Germany’s far-right AfD party said Monday that it had arranged talks with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, given a rift over alleged debates on the mass expulsion of immigrants.

Members of Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is riding high in opinion polls, were accused in a recent press investigation of discussing the idea of mass deportations at a meeting with extremists.

Le Pen last week distanced herself from the idea, saying she was “in complete disagreement with the proposal that was apparently discussed” at the meeting.

Her party’s deputies belong to the same European Parliament group as the AfD, an arrangement Le Pen said was now up for discussion.

AfD parliamentary group chief Bernd Baumann told journalists that talks had been arranged with Le Pen to “set the record straight on how things really are,” without providing details of when the talks would be held.

A spokesman for Maximilian Krah, an AfD member of the European Parliament, told AFP that “we consider this to be a misunderstanding… which we hope to clarify soon.”

According to the investigative media outlet Correctiv, AfD members discussed the expulsion of immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” at a recent meeting in Potsdam.

Among the participants at the talks was Martin Sellner, a leader of Austria’s Identitarian Movement and a champion of so-called “remigration.”

The reported plans have led to a backlash against the AfD in Germany, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to protest against the party.

Around 576,000 people took part in protests last weekend alone, an interior ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

Bernd Baumann of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party speaks during a parliament debate at the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, in Berlin, on January 18, 2024. (JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP)

Le Pen, parliamentary leader of France’s National Rally (RN), has been trying to soften her party’s image since taking over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is notorious for xenophobic and antisemitic remarks.

“We are going to have to talk about divergences if they are as large as this one,” she told journalists.

Baumann said Le Pen’s comments had been “based on press reports” that were “completely wrong in their tone.”

Terms such as “deportation” and “mass expulsion” had not been used at the meeting, he said, but were “attributions on the part of this dubious Correctiv organization and large sections of the press.”

Sellner confirmed that he presented his “Identitarian concept of remigration” at the talks.

The “concept targeted migrants who are not assimilated, or who culturally, economically and criminally weigh on society,” he told AFP.

The AfD said Roland Hartwig, who is an aide of co-leader Alice Weidel, had presented a social media project at the meeting, but denied adopting Sellner’s ideas.

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