European far-right leaders gather ahead of EU elections

<span>National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen said she knew she could count on Vox’s support in the European parliament to ‘begin to reorientate’ the EU.</span><span>Photograph: Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA</span>
National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen said she knew she could count on Vox’s support in the European parliament to ‘begin to reorientate’ the EU.Photograph: Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA

International far-right leaders, including France’s Marine Le Pen, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Argentina’s Javier Milei, came together in Madrid to rail against socialism and “massive illegal migration” three weeks before hard-right parties are expected to see a surge in support in June’s European elections.

Sunday’s “great patriotic convention”, which was organised by Spain’s far-right Vox party, offered conservatives and far-right populists a chance to congregate and take aim at a variety of familiar targets, from the welfare state to “wokeness” and the agendas of Brussels-based bureaucrats.

The event was also attended by Amichai Chikli, Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs and combating antisemitism, André Ventura, the leader of Portugal’s far-right Chega party, and the Chilean far-right leader José Antonio Kast.

The US hard right was represented by Matt Schlapp, the Donald Trump ally who chairs the American Conservative Union, and Roger Severino, vice-president of the powerful conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank.

Orbán, who sent a video message, said it was time “for patriots to occupy Brussels”, adding that those in the Belgian capital were “unleashing massive illegal migration” and “poisoning our children with gender propaganda”.

Meloni, who also appeared via video, urged Europe’s far-right parties to work together as EU citizens prepare to head to the polls. “We’re at the eve of decisive elections,” said the Italian prime minister. “It’s time to mobilise, to get out on to the streets. It’s time to raise the stakes; it is our duty to fight to the last day.”

Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, used the event to call for like-minded groups around the world to vanquish the threat posed by the left. “While all defend our national sovereignty, we also know that we can’t do it alone,” he told the 10,000-strong crowd at the Vistalegre arena in the Spanish capital. “Faced with globalism and its socialist soul, we must respond with a global alliance that will defend common sense, because this is a shared threat.”

Le Pen, whose National Rally party is leading the polls in France, said she knew she could count on Vox’s support in the European parliament to “begin to reorientate” the EU.

Milei, who began his speech with a song, eulogised the power of capitalism. “Despite all the left’s whingeing, the free market brings prosperity to everyone,” he said. “Socialism has always been an economic and social failure. Opening the door to socialism means inviting death. It’s more important than ever to point that out.”

The controversial Argentinian president – who was in Spain to attend the event, promote his latest book and meet with business leaders from Spanish multinationals such as Iberia, Santander, Telefónica and BBVA – had already made his thoughts on socialism plain at an event on Friday.

“Socialism is the cancer of humanity,” he said. “Socialism is the enemy. Instead of being so worried about the differences we may have on this side in life, let’s not let the dark, black, satanic, disgusting, atrocious, carcinogenic side – which is socialism – defeat us.”

He also used his appearance at the rally to reignite the war of words that began earlier this month after Óscar Puente, Spain’s outspoken transport minister, suggested that Milei’s eccentric media appearances could be down “to the ingestion of substances”.

Milei hit back on Sunday, referring to the corruption allegations relating to the wife of Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s socialist prime minister. Sánchez, who has called the allegations baseless and the brainchild of his political and media opponents, recently took five days out of the public eye to reflect on whether he wished to continue in office because of the ferocity of the personal attacks on his family.

The Argentinian president said: “The global elites don’t understand how destructive implementing socialist ideas can be because they’re too far away from it all. They don’t know what kind of society and country socialism can produce, what kind of people cling to power and what levels of abuse it can bring. Even with a corrupt wife, he debases himself and takes five days to think about it.”

The Spanish government – which described Milei’s words as an unprecedented “frontal attack on our democracy, on our institutions, and on Spain itself” – said it would be recalling its ambassador in Buenos Aires. Speaking on Sunday afternoon, Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, said the government expected a full public apology from Milei. “If such an apology is not forthcoming,” he said, “we will take all the actions we deem necessary to defend our sovereignty and our dignity.”

Sánchez himself said Sunday’s far-right summit was indicative of an “undercurrent” vehemently opposed to social justice which denies both science and women’s rights.

“Why have all these people chosen Spain as the place to meet?” he said in a speech in Barcelona on Saturday. “It’s no coincidence. They’ve chosen Spain because we, as a society – not as a government; as a society – represent everything that they hate and detest: feminism; social justice; dignified employment; a strong welfare state, and democracy.

“In democracy, as in life, forgiveness is far stronger than bitterness, coexistence is far stronger than confrontation, and union is far stronger than division.”