Marine Le Pen is a lawyer by training. But she makes no difference between the European Union and the Council of Europe, if this serves her narrative. Aline Robert and Georgi Gotev have fact-checked her words.
The Council of Europe is not even a EU institution. There are 47 countries in the Council of Europe, a loose organisation that tries to focus on human rights. There are only 28, soon 27 countries in the European Union, a group that plans to build an “ever closer” economical and political union.
Mixing up both organisations is OK when you are ten. When you are 15 it can cost you a big blow at your exams. Hopefully this is how people learn, and when they are grown-ups, allowed to vote for European elections, they should know the difference.
But education doesn’t work for everyone. Not for a politician whose father has been a MEP for 35 years, and who has herself been a MEP for 12 years, and a lawyer, as Marine Le Pen is.
So there are two organisations, the Council of Europe and the EU, and they are unrelated. Two judicial courts are linked to those organisations : the European Court of Human Rights for the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Justice for the EU.
Though Marine Le Pen likes to mix everything up. Especially when it can fuel racism and xenophobia.
“Never talk to us again about European Union values” she tweeted after the Human Rights Court of Justice ruled that a Muslim woman plaintiff, Hatice Molla Sali, could claim inheritance under Sharia law. For the National Rally, Marine Le Pen’s force, this means allowing the “sharia” or traditional Muslim law in Europe.
This is of course a hasty and bad interpretation of the decision that was disclosed but the Human Rights Court of Justice, and Marine Le Pen’s first mistake in this case.
The ruling refers to a specific case in Greece, which traditionally applies a special status to the long-established Muslim minority in Western Thrace, a region of northern Greece which adjoins the land border with Turkey. Under the Treaty of Lausanne concluded in 1923, this community was guaranteed some respect for its cultural rights. In practice, this has meant that the Thracian Muslims’ marital and inheritance matters have generally been dealt with under Islamic law, with a mufti adjudicating where necessary.
So the ruling was not about legitimising Sharia law, but about confirming legal rights of a particular person under the Treaty of Lausanne, inapplicable elsewhere.
Marine Le Pen’s second mistake is that the EU and the Council of Europe are not the same. But of course she was tempted to mix up the two, and cobble the frightening message that the EU legitimises Sharia law.
The first lessons in populism obviously reads: Let’s have everything mixed up!