France’s Le Pen says wants ‘happy’ Europe

Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party candidate for French 2017 presidential election attends a political meeting in Nice

NICE, France (Reuters) – French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Thursday she wanted to replace the “grey” European Union by a “happy Europe,” in a speech that focused on her plans to build back border checks, but did not mention her anti-euro stance.

One aide said the positive spin on Le Pen’s euroscepticism was meant to try and reassure voters of conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who did not qualify for the May 7 run-off, and try and convince them to vote for her.

“The EU is grey, like the color of the Brussels technocrats’ suits, Le Pen said, adding: “I want to give it colors because my Europe is happy, diverse, colorful, it’s got the face of its peoples.”

Le Pen, who wants to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership after six months of negotiations to turn the bloc into a loose cooperative of nations, did not announce any shift in her policies and reaffirmed that what she wanted was a “Europe of free nations, of cooperations.”

But while she repeatedly talked of her plans to take France out of the Schengen border-free area, she did not mention returning to the Franc national currency – which is also among her policies.

With a majority of French voters opposed to leaving the euro, the Le Pen campaign has not insisted on that part of her platform over the past months.

Fillon came third behind Le Pen and first-placed Emmanuel Macron in the first round with about 20 percent of votes which Le Pen and Macron must now fight over.

During the first round campaign he said that he wanted to step up border controls and make some changes to the EU, but he also several times severely Le Pen’s anti-euro stance.

Macron is in favor of closer European integration, although in a series of interviews on Thursday he sought to present a tough position on countries he felt do not play by the rules.

“I am convinced my election will be a historic chance for Europe,” Le Pen said, adding that her stance on Europe had been distorted by others.

(This story fixes link in paragraph nine)

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Callus)