BERLIN (Reuters) - Divisions appeared in the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on Friday over a planned meeting of European right-wing populist parties next week, from which several leading German media have been barred.
AfD co-leader Joerg Meuthen distanced himself from the Jan. 21 meeting being planned by the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group in the European Parliament. The AfD’s other leader, Frauke Petry, still plans to attend the event in the western German city of Koblenz.
Marine Le Pen from France’s Front National, Geert Wilders from the Netherlands’ Freedom Party and Matteo Salvini from Italy’s Northern League also plan to participate, according to organisers, raising the profile of the event in a year when their parties are hoping for electoral breakthroughs.
But the ENF, the smallest group in the European Parliament with members from 10 parties from nine countries, is facing criticism over its decision to ban some German public broadcasters, Der Spiegel magazine, Handelsblatt business daily and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“The event in Koblenz is a sole thing of the ENF, the AfD has nothing to do with it,” Meuthen said. “This is not changed by the fact that one or other AfD politician will show up there.”
Among the AfD members planning to attend are Petry and her husband Marcus Pretzell, a member of the European Parliament who belongs to the ENF group.
Pretzell drew criticism on Thursday by announcing the media restrictions. A member of his staff was unable to give an explanation for the ban when contacted by Reuters.
The AfD, which has strongly criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing more than a million refugees into Germany in the past two years, now has seats in 11 of Germany’s 16 federal state assemblies.
Polls predict it will enter the federal parliament in September’s national election with up to 15 percent of the vote, which would make it the third-strongest party.
Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann, Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Trevelyan