|Author (Person)||Abbott, Dennis, Banks, Martin|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.16, 25.4.02|
AN URGENT security review has been ordered after a planned news conference at the European Parliament in Brussels by Jean-Marie Le Pen ended in a shambles yesterday.
The conference was called off at the last minute after scores of MEPs joined protestors to hijack the event, which Le Pen had arranged following his surprise success in the first round of the French presidential election last Sunday.
Pat Cox, president of the Parliament, last night ordered an inquiry into the chaotic events.
His spokesman, David Harley, said: 'In the past, we have relied on the goodwill of MEPs to observe the normal procedures of press conferences but, on this occasion, I am afraid this did not happen.
'What happened is unacceptable and we must now look at ways of preventing it ever happening again. This was not a spontaneous protest and we will identify who exactly was responsible.'
The National Front leader had earlier evaded demonstrators by entering the Parliament through a side door to take part in a debate on the Middle East ahead of his media conference.
As Le Pen took his seat in hemicycle, Cox appealed for order as MEPs jeered and held up paper placards carrying the simple message 'Non'.
'Let the speaker have his word and if you wish to make a silent protest, do that,' said Cox.
Le Pen's presence caused External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten to deviate from his own speech, referring to the MEP as 'one of the less agreeable aspects of European civilisation' and his electoral success as 'grubby and shameful'.
Le Pen spoke for only for two minutes to complain that it was 'disgraceful' that France and the rest of Europe were taking orders from the US in the Middle East.
He had reserved his main message, however, for his news conference.
But, after it became clear that a large number of protestors had gained access to the event, the scheduled 5pm start came and went. Scuffles broke out and several demonstrators were ejected by security staff.
After a 30-minute delay, one of Le Pen's fellow National Front MEPs, Jean-Claude Martinez, appeared to say a conference would be 'impossible' but would go ahead instead in Paris the following day.
Martinez, who was struck by a cream pie thrown by a protestor, added: 'We will have a press conference when we have security and which will only be open to journalists, not to provocateurs.'
Two of the prime movers in the noisy protest inside the Parliament were MEPs Harlem Désir, former president of SOS Racisme, and Glyn Ford, treasurer of the London-based Anti Nazi League.
Referring to Le Pen's no-show at the news conference, Ford said: 'He could have had his say. In my view he bottled it.
'He only had to come down two floors. I had to do a press conference in Marseilles for the European Parliament after the committee of inquiry into racism and xenophobia. There were protestors there too, but it didn't stop me speaking.'
Among other MEPs who witnessed the chaotic scenes were Belgian far-right member Karel Dillen, who was also hit by a pie, Socialist Catherine Stihler, Conservative Charles Tannock, Nigel Farage of the UK's far-right Independence Party and Fianna Fáil's Brian Crowley.
The wheelchair-bound Crowley narrowly avoided being caught in the rush as a sea of cameramen converged on Martinez and French National Front vice-president Bruno Gollnisch outside the press room.
They succeeded in diverting attention from Le Pen, who was making his getaway elsewhere.
Dutch Green MEP Kathlijne Buitenweg said she was disappointed that the protestors had managed to silence Le Pen.
'If we want to defeat him, we should let him speak because he does not make any sense anyway. Now we have given him the chance to say the European Parliament is not democratic.'
Later, there was a tense, two-hour stand-off between riot police and a 500-strong crowd of demonstrators outside the Parliament buildings.
An urgent security review has been ordered after a planned news conference at the European Parliament in Brussels by Jean-Marie Le Pen was called off at the last minute on 24 April 2002, due to disruption by protestors.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||France|