ATHENS (Reuters) - The leader of France’s far right National Front party wants France, Spain, Greece and Portugal to leave the euro because the common currency has not brought prosperity, she said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.
Buoyed by opinion polls that show her making big advances ahead of next year’s presidential election in France, Marine Le Pen said she represents a party of patriots who never surrendered to the European Union or the euro.
“They promised us this currency would bring growth and welfare, and what happened? People were destroyed, we are talking about a real tragedy. Look what happened to Greece,” Marine Le Pen told Sunday’s Kathimerini newspaper.
Le Pen took over leadership of the National Front in January from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who stunned France in 2002 by beating the Socialist Party candidate and getting through to the run-off in the presidential election won by Jacques Chirac.
Elections in France this Sunday and next to appoint some 2,000 local councillors will be the last public vote before the presidential poll. Two surveys in March suggested Sarkozy, if he runs, could be knocked out in the first round while Le Pen could go through to a runoff against a leftist candidate.
“Greek society is going backwards by whole decades. And although Greek people are showing patience, which has impressed me a lot, how long can this last? We must liberate our peoples and return to our own currencies,” Le Pen told the paper.
Heavily indebted Greece turned to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for a bailout in May last year to avoid defaulting. Austerity policies to shore up its finances have led to a protracted recession and record unemployment levels.
Le Pen, 42, who has inherited her father’s talent for political invective, said IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who may run in the French presidential election, does not have a good grip on the problem.
“Dominique Strauss-Kahn is underestimating the situation in Greece as he is underestimating it in France. He does not understand that we are heading towards an economic abyss. We must get out of the euro here and now,” Le Pen said.
She said a strong boost to her anti-immigrant party in an opinion poll that narrowly placed her ahead of President Nicolas Sarkozy reflected a growing demand for change.
“A revolutionary wind is blowing and I see it. It does not surprise me because people want more democracy and social justice. And it’s not only that they want to punish the political establishment for not solving France’s problems in the last 30 years. What people want is change,” she said.
Le Pen said Europe could not afford to take on more illegal immigrants, but EU policies effectively encouraged massive arrivals.
“Governments until today were letting (illegal) immigrants act unchecked, isn’t this a deficit of democracy? Our values, our Christian civilisation are now at risk and we must act decisively,” Le Pen said, reiterating a call to turn back migrant boats.
Editing by Matthew Jones