VIENNA – Austria's right-wing leader warned migrants Friday that Europe is ready to send them packing, as he and his French ally assailed the European Union and demanded it cede authority to member nations.
The Freedom Party's Heinz-Christian Strache and Marine Le Pen of France's extreme-right National Front also said it was unfair that the killing of British legislator Jo Cox had been linked by some to her pro-EU and immigrant-friendly stance.
They spoke at a gathering of representatives from six right to extreme-right populist and Euroskeptic parties convened by the Freedom Party under the slogan "Patriotic Spring" and depicted by attendees as proof of the right's political unity and strength.
The meeting follows last month's narrow defeat of a Freedom Party contender in Austrian presidential elections that was hailed by European right-wingers as a sign of the right's growing clout. Strache's party has launched a legal challenge of the results and Austria's highest court is not ruling out a repeat of the vote as it examines Freedom Party claims of gross irregularities.
Beyond railing against the perceived centralism of the EU, the two repeated their opposition to mass migration. "We will save you on the high seas," Strache proclaimed. "But we will send you back to the harbor where you started out."
Within the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was most to blame for the influx, said Strache, alluding to Germany's initial open border policy for migrants.
"She puts out an invitation like this, and all the other European countries have to tolerate it? No!" said the Austrian right-wing leader. He and Le Pen both linked last year's migrant inflow to recent terrorist attacks in Europe, with Le Pen repeating her call to "conserve national borders."
Both Strache and Le Pen touched on the June 23 British referendum on EU membership as a strong indication of Europe-wide disillusionment with the EU. "People want a different, more just Europe," Strache said, while Le Pen depicted the vote as exemplary for all of Europe.
"All countries of EU should be asked this question, about their relationship with the EU," she told reporters,
Le Pen cast the British vote as damaging for the European Union no matter which way it goes. A pro-exit win, she said, would tarnish the validity of EU pacts with its members, while a stay vote would "create a new problem" because that was accomplished by giving Britain "different rights ... from other countries"
Both sides suspended referendum campaigning after the killing of British Labour legislator Jo Cox. While British authorities have not named a possible motive, a U.S. civil rights group has said the suspect had links to an American white supremacist organization.
Le Pen and Strache warned against linking the killing to the victim's pro-migrant and EU-friendly views. Le Pen said that is "inappropriate and indecent," while Strache said his party opposes "extremism from the right or the left," adding: "We renounce everything that is linked with violence."
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton contributed from Paris.