Prague, Czech Republic – Far right leaders promised to build a new Europe without the EU, as they rallied against Islam and praised US President Donald Trump‘s hardline immigration policy at a meeting in Prague over the weekend.
The conference was hosted by the Czech Republic’s anti-Islam Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which won nearly 11 percent of the vote in October and is chaired by Tomio Okamura, a Czech-Japanese politician.
The meeting closed a year of far-right gains across Europe, as demonstrated most recently in Austria.
Members of the Freedom Party of Austria, who were present at the Prague conference, were lauded for having just entered the country’s new coalition government.
The National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who lost out on the French presidency earlier this year after reaching the final round of voting, said the development was “excellent news for Europe.
“These successes show that the nation states are the future, that the Europe of tomorrow is a Europe of the people,” she said.
Along with Dutch Geert Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom, Le Pen upped a call to unify opposition to the EU under the Europe of Nations and Freedom coalition (ENF) – the smallest group in the European Parliament, launched in 2015.
Closing Europe’s borders to asylum-seekers is one of the group’s key ambitions.
“Because we like Europe, we say that the EU is going to kill her,” Le Pen said on Saturday, calling for supporters to help overthrow the union.
“None of us are xenophobic – we are opposed to the EU because we believe it is a catastrophically disastrous organisation.
“Migration is close to unbearable – our respective cultures are being destroyed.
“We do like diversity but I like the Dutch to be Dutch, the Czechs to be Czech, I like the French to be French and I like the Italians to be Italians.”
We must have the courage to have travel bans as President Trump has done in the United States.
Wilders, meanwhile, rejected Islam as “totalitarian ideology” and warned that the continent would be overrun by Muslims.
“We must have the courage to have travel bans as President Trump has done in the United States,” he told delegates. “We must have the courage to send every boat with illegal immigrants back as Australia is doing for such a long time.”
He also praised the Czech Republic and the other Visegrad states as “heroes” for their continued defiance of EU refugee quotas.
“We want also to remain the masters of our own house,” he said.
Earlier this month, the European Commission took the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over their failure to accept their required share of asylum seekers.
The Czech Republic has taken just 12 of the more than 2,000 refugees it was assigned.
“In the regional sense, the post-communist countries are particularly fragile and have always been, with the arrival with the now perceived danger from foreigners and Muslims,” Jan Culik, a lecturer in Czech studies at the University of Glasgow, told Al Jazeera. “They have very little immunity to xenophobia and now the Czech Republic and Poland are among the worst in this regard.
“I would say it doesn’t bode well for those countries that it is happening in Prague.”
As meetings continued at a hotel, around 400 protestors held peaceful demonstrations against xenophobia.
They chanted “shame”, blew whistles and booed far-right supporters as they entered the compound, which was heavily fortified with security and police.
“It is important to show people that we are against their actions and what they represent, with their racism and nationalism and hate against people,” Jan Matustik, a 22-year-old student, told Al Jazeera.
As in neighbouring Poland and Hungary, anti-Islamic and anti-establishment rhetoric has become a mainstay in Czech politics.
Rising populism helped billionaire and Eurosceptic Andrej Babis become Czech prime minister in the last election; he also stands against EU migrant quotas. Earlier this month, Babis told journalists that he insisted on the issue during an EU summit in Brussels.