The Socialist and Green parties of the European Parliament proposed a rule change on Tuesday to prevent Jean-Marie Le Pen, a convicted Holocaust denier, from serving as the chair for the parliament’s opening session in July. The European Parliament is the legislative body of the EU.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is 80 years old, is expected to be reelected to the parliament as part of France’s National Front party. As the oldest member of the parliament, Le Pen will then serve as the chair of the inaugural session until a new president is elected.
Le Pen has been accused of being anti-Semitic and has been convicted by several courts for Holocaust denial. He has said several times that the Holocaust is “just a detail in the history of World War II,” which a Munich court said “minimizes the Holocaust, which caused the death of six million Jews.” The German court went on to convict and fine Le Pen. A French court also fined Le Pen 183,200 euros for denying the Holocaust.
German Member of Parliament Martin Schulz, from the Socialist party, proposed a rule change by which the youngest Member of Parliament would chair the session instead of the oldest. “I am concerned by the fact that a Holocaust denier could preside over the opening session of the European Parliament,” he said.
On the other hand, Green party member Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who also supported the initiative, emphasized that the rule change had another purpose. “We would like to see the youngest deputy open the session not because of Le Pen, but because it’s a sign of the future," he explained.
Although the rule change has supporters, it will not pass easily. All presidents of parliamentary groups in the EU chamber must agree in order to approve the motion. British parliament member Graham Watson of the Liberal party has already said he opposes the change. “There is no reason we should treat Mr. Le Pen differently from others,” he claimed, “even if we hate his politics.”
Le Pen himself is rather irate about the possibility he won’t serve as the session chair. “I think I still scare people,” he told reporters, “I’m still demonized.”