New York / Brussels
26 March 2009
Ronald Lauder: "Shame if Le Pen is allowed to become next European Parliament's doyen"
Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), has strongly condemned the belittling of the Holocaust by the French extreme-right party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in a speech to the European Parliament (EP) on Wednesday in Strasbourg. Le Pen, the head of the National Front party in France and a member of the EP, repeated earlier statements and said that he maintained his position that the Nazi gas chambers were "a detail of World War II history." He was fined nearly €200,000 by a French court for making the same remarks in a radio interview in 1987.
If re-elected in the June 2009 elections, Le Pen is likely to be the oldest EP member and would preside over the inaugural session of the newly elected assembly. Lauder called on EP leaders to do everything in their powers to avoid such a scenario. "It would be a shame if Le Pen were allowed to become the doyen of the new European Parliament and would send a bad signal to Europe and the world. There is still ample time for the EP to change its statutes, for political parties to ask respectable elder statesman to stand in the election, and ultimately for French voters to reject revisionism and Holocaust denial by choosing a respectable party and denying Le Pen a return to Strasbourg," Lauder declared.
He praised efforts by the leaders of the main political groups in the European Parliament to defuse the crisis. "The chairmen of the main groups in the European Parliament have realized the problem and reacted quickly and deserve praise for that," the WJC president said.
The World Jewish Congress is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 92 countries. Founded in Geneva in 1936, the WJC serves as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people to governments and international organizations.