Simon Murdoch: Away from the public eye, the youth-wings of Europe’s far-right parties are collaborating and have some very concerning ties
David Quadri is the Foreign Spokesman of Lega Giovani, the youth-wing of Italy’s Lega Nord party. Since 2018, Quadri has made a concerted effort to mobilise and ally the youth branches of far-right EU parties, and has even brokered connections to those of parties outside of Europe.
Yet, what is concerning about Quadri’s apparent leadership of this effort is not just his party’s politics, but his – and other youth-wings’ – proximity to the extremes of the international far right .
Quadri met with a number of youth-wings in 2018 and likewise now into 2019, whilst others have followed suit and attended meetings of party youth branches across Europe in anticipation of this year’s European Parliament elections. In June 2018, for example, a number of these groups were represented at a conference on regionalism held in Dinslaken, Germany, organised by the Alternative fur Deutschland’s (AfD) ‘Junge Alternative’.
Later, in November 2018, David Avocado (Junge Alternative Spokesman), Bart Claes (President of the Belgian Vlaams Belang (VB) youth-wing, VB Jongeren) and Quadri visited the UK for the UKIP Young Independence (YI) conference in Worcester, England, though were simply put down as “International Speakers” on the event’s Facebook page. Speaking about the three visitors, YI National Chairman Nathan Ryding said, “This shows exactly the kind of relationships we need to build. As youth-wings all across Europe, Eurosceptic, patriotic, youth-wings we need to build [such] relationships”.
On 29 March 2019, Quadri coordinated a meeting of youth-wing leaders in Rome, entitled ‘The Renaissance of European Youth’. The event saw Quadri and Lega Giovani’s Andrea Crippa alongside YI Adam Wood, VB Jongeren’s Bart Claes, Junge Alternative’s Damian Lohr and two further youth-wing’s represented, through Maximilian Krauss of the Austrian Freedom Party’s Freheitliche Jugend and Jordan Bardella, the leading MEP candidate of the Rassemblement National and the leader of their youth-wing, Generation Nation.
Notably, as Le Parisien’s Alexandre Sulzer reported, in attendance was Frédéric Châtillon, who has been dubbed one of Marine Le Pen’s “Men in the Shadows” by the French press and who is her longtime “friend and confidant”. Châtillon, who lives in Rome and who led the fascist Groupe Union Défense as a student, was banned from working with the Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in certain capacities in 2017 after charges relating to party financing, though he still appears to maintain connections.
Sulzer also reported that the invitation to the meeting had also been extended to the youth-wings of Poland’s Law and Justice party, Forum Młodych Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (FM PiS) and Russia’s Molodaya Gvardiya (MG), youth-wing of the country’s ruling party, United Russia. Despite this, Quadri and Crippa had met with MG members Serghei Perepelov and Egor Litvinenko in Moscow in November 2018 to sign a memorandum of cooperation.
More recently, Krauss of the Austrian Freedom Party’s youth wing has extended efforts at collaboration to the youth-wing of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, ‘Fidelitas’. In April 2019 Krauss met with Fidelitas’ Foreign Coordinator, Marton Veisz in Vienna, in the first meeting of the two groups.
Quadri and Lega Giovani appear to have made one explicit effort to interact with extremist links recently, meeting with little-known Irish vlogger Rowan Croft AKA ‘Grand Torino’ in Italy this year, where he interviewed them for his channel and made multiple videos extolling his support for the party.
Croft has previously interviewed the likes of far-right figure Jim Dowson alongside Hermann Kelly of the Irexit Party in December 2018, ex-Rebel Media vlogger Caolan Robertson alongside Damhnait McKenna of the Irish branch of the racial separatist youth movement, Generation Identity, in November 2018, and Simon Roche of the South African white nationalist Suidlanders group, who took part in the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and whose group did firearms training with AfD politician, Petr Bystron, in December 2018.
Yet, what is more worrying is a less public, but no less extreme close connection between Quadri and the international far right. This year saw the third annual ‘Etnofutur’ conference in Tallin, Estonia on 23 February, organised by Blue Awakening, the youth-wing of the far-right Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) which now sits in the country’s coalition government. The event featured speakers from across the European far right, two US white nationalists – Greg Johnson and Jared Taylor – and Olena Semenyaka of the neo-nazi Ukrainian organisation, Azov Battalion. The day following attendees took part in a torchlit procession in the city that Blue Awakening have organised to coincide with Estonia’s Independence Day.
Ruuben Kaalep, Blue Awakening Chairman and an EKRE City Councillor (also recently pictured with Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen), spoke at the conference and has appeared at other far-right conferences alongside the international far right recently, including the Prabudimas conference in Vilnius, Lithuania which HOPE not hate exposed, where Johnson and Taylor also spoke as well as a representative of Azov Battalion.
Whilst we cannot be sure that Quadri attended the Etnofutur conference, he is down as attending the EKRE/Blue Awakening’s procession event page on Facebook, and in a post on Instagram tagged Jaak Madison, former Blue Awakening Chairman and now EKRE MP and party Deputy Chairman, who had advertised the procession in February 2019, suggesting he also planned to attend.
Too Close for Comfort
A core motivation of this youth-wing alliance appears to be the ensured continuation of the wider party alliances between far-right populist parties across Europe and the globe that has grown in recent years.
Alessio Ercoli, Provincial Coordinator for Lega Giovani in Biella, Italy, told Italian paper Luinotizie, following a December 2018 meeting of Lega Giovani and Generation Nation, that they are working with others to change the EU in the interest of protecting “homelands” and how this mission resonated further afield with the political developments in the “US, Russia and Brazil”.
Whilst we should, of course, be concerned in the immediate period with the leadership and main ranks of Europe’s far-right parties – the likes of Le Pen and Salvini – we should not lose sight of those who may soon enter the mainstream political fray. Generation Nation leader Jordan Bardella, for example, is also the Rassemblement National’s leading MEP candidate in the European Parliament election. This is the same Bardella who, after being asked about the “great replacement” conspiracy theory cited by the Christchurch killer, merely replied that his home suburb was “submerged by mass migration … by Islamist fundamentalism … [and that] there is a substitution of population.”
Moreover, party leaders are clear in their support for these up-and-coming faces of the European far right and their efforts to unite the youth. Ercoli, a graduate from Scualo di Formazione Politica, a six-day political training course in Milan run by Lega Nord’s Salvini and Transport Minister Armando Siri, was well-received by Marine Le Pen and Rassemblement National General Secretary Nicolas Bay MEP in a meeting with Generation Nation in Savoy, France in March 2019.
Such support of these young party activists and their networking should cause greater concern. Be it Ercoli, who alongside Quadri met with the far-right Irish anti-Muslim party, Identity Ireland, when its representatives visited Italy in January 2019, to Quadri himself and his ties to the international far right, or the aforementioned Bardella and his worrying comments about Christchurch, if these will be the leaders of an impending far-right bloc in Europe, we must pay more attention to their extremist ties and efforts to continue this bloc into the future.