The European far-right parties, with Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen at the helm, began 2019 enjoying a marked upsurge despite promoting fascist, Islamophobic and undemocratic behaviour, resentment and hatred.
In almost half of the 28 European Union member states they are at the helm of the executive or the opposition, with the majority of the latter seemingly better positioned – compared with previous elections – on a platform of nationalist, authoritarian, homophobic, anti-feminist, anti-Semitic, Eurosceptic and anti-system rhetoric.
They govern on their own in three EU countries (Hungary, Poland and Croatia), form alliances in five (Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria and Denmark) and exert influence as the opposition in four (Czech Republic, France, Slovenia and the Netherlands).
However, the representation they enjoy in 22 national parliaments is where they exert their real political influence and they occupy 130 of the 751 seats in the European Parliament, according to the porCausa Foundation, author of the report “Anti- immigration. The rise of populist xenophobia in Europe”. The conservative Hungarian party Fidesz came to power in 2010, but after a short time Prime Minister Viktor Orbán adopted an extremist rhetoric, mainly directed against immigration and refugees making him the star of the so-called Visegrád group or V4 (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic).
The Pole, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is no longer head of government, nor does he preside over his party; however, behind the scenes, he exerts control over law and justice, especially since his victory in the 2015 elections, while remaining close to the extremists of Kikuz15.
Last December, the prime minister of Slovakia, Peter Pellegrini, of the Social-Democratic Directorate, in alliance with the Democratic Left (SDL) and the extremist Slovak National Party (SNS) (who are against the country’s Hungarian minority), led a veto approved by 90 of the 150 deputies against the signing of the global agreement on migration.
The Eurosceptic Milos Zeman, who reaffirmed his commitment as president of the Czech Republic in 2018, persists in his demand for sovereignty; and on this he is in agreement with the far right of the Party of Direct Democracy (SPD), the second largest party in opposition, which along with other parties is asking that the country be free from the dictates of the EU.
In Italy, the environmentalist, anti-euro and partially Eurosceptic 5 Star Movement made a pact with extremists from The North League, the party of the current interior minister, Matteo Salvini, when he outdid the Visegrad four in passing from demagoguery to actual measures: he closed his ports to rescue operations in the Mediterranean and is threatening to throw the EU’s Operation Sophia overboard.
The Croatian leader, Kolinda Grabar, leads a radical group, with which she won the election four years ago: Democratic Union heads the executive coalition, has 56 seats (a plurality) in parliament and is in favour of more border controls, but is not opting for the anti-immigration course of Hungary or Poland.
In the first half of 2018, Bulgaria conducted European policy with extremists in its government coalition, among them the minister of the environment and member of United Patriots, Neno Dimov, who denied climate change and global warming at the European Council.
Beforehand, in December 2017 the liberal Austrian People’s Party (Ã-VP), led by 32-year-old Sebastian Kurz and the Freedom Party (FPÃ-), founded in 1954 by Nazis, reached an agreement to head the national executive.
The People’s Party of Denmark (DF), the country’s second largest party has been supporting governments since 2001; while another Nordic party, True Finns, on the fringes until a decade ago, displayed its authority in 2011 when it multiplied its number of seats in the Helsinki Parliament by eight.
The Greek neo-fascist Golden Dawn, and its sister party, the National Popular Front (ELAM) of Cyprus are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence as is Vlaams Belang (Flamenco Interest) in Belgium.
The Alternative Party for Germany, the Party of Greater Romania, the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, the Order and Justice party in Lithuania and All for Latvia are also leaving their radical mark.
Who is halting their progress
On July 27, 2018 an editorial entitled “The Whisper’’ in Spanish newspaper El País warned: “Europe must react. The extreme right is gaining more and more ground “; however, only pacts between different groups in the Netherlands, Slovenia and recently in Sweden managed to wrest power away from nationalist leaders.
UKIP is no longer in parliament leaving Brexit as its legacy, Vox in Spain has burst onto the scene in Andalusia’s parliament, while the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal are the only strongholds in the EU boasting hardly any extreme right-wing commotion. For the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, “populism continues to grow because traditional parties play around with their ideas.”
But different experts on the subject claim that the EU, far from taking them on, has allowed far right extremists into their institutions; and it is legitimizing not only their rhetoric but also their policies.
In the opinion of Iberian political scientist Luis Gonzalo Segura, “in Europe, citizens are not saying ‘yes’ to the extreme right, they are saying ‘no’ to a European project that is ignoring its essence: the social, legal, fiscal, political and military fundamentals.”
“If Europe had built a genuine union in which it did its utmost to improve the social conditions of its citizens, inequalities as well as ever increasing rates of poverty would be reduced, and the project would be to benefit of all. This, it has not done and today it must decide – between reform and the extreme right,” he asserts.
In order to counteract these forces, experts suggest first identifying them and then trying to understand why today the country or block in question is acting in the way they are. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear)