The far right’s grave threat to security and peace in Europe
2018-07-15 15:31:16 -

By Michael McGowan


The escalation of far-right, extreme nationalist and populists politics across Europe is not only undermining the European project, but is also a serious threat to the very existence of the European Union.


Peace in Europe and internationally is also increasingly at risk with shadows of the horrors of the Europe of the 1930s hovering just above the horizon.

The stark reality of this xenophobic populism is evident with the support for the French National Front (recently renamed National Rally), the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and support in the UK for Ukip and the vote to leave the EU.


In the last 10 years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, which would previously have caused alarm but today appears to be widely accepted. In Europe, this network of mainstream groups and their sometimes violent street-level supporters are winning even larger electoral majorities besides countries like Poland and Hungary where they are already in power.


Some attribute this upsurge of right-wing activity to a reaction to worsening economies, but it is clear that prejudices have been inflamed by the so-called ‘war on terror’, giving racism a new platform in European in the name of security.


In Italy, a joint programme of government from populist and racist parties of The League, formally known as the Northern League, and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement includes plans for the mass deportation of migrants.


In Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) formed just five years ago has a substantial presence in the federal parliament. From its beginning as an anti-EU party, it has pushed for strict anti-immigrant policies and tapped into anxieties over the influence of Islam.


Austria, which has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, has the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), and the migrant crisis has been seen as a key to its success. Marine Le Pen in France, meanwhile, is anti-EU, opposed to the euro, and blames Brussels for mass immigration.


In Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orbán recently secured a third term in office with a landslide victory in an election dominated by the immigration issue. Orbán has long presented himself as the defender of Hungary and Europe against Muslim migrants.


The anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), led by former PM Janez Janša, opposes migrant quotas. Janša has said he wants Slovenia to “become a country that will put the wellbeing and security of Slovenians first”. During the general election campaign, he formed an alliance with Orbán, borrowing his tactic of stirring fears about migrants. Slovenia only accepted 150 asylum applications last year.


In Poland, the Law and Justice party secured a strong win in 2015 elections. The party was behind a controversial law making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in the Nazi holocaust, which some saw as an attempt to whitewash the role of individual atrocities during the Second World War.


Sweden has had one of the most positive attitudes to migrants and welcomed more migrants per capita than any other European country, but polls show support at a record high for the far-right Sweden Democrats.


Immigration rules in neighbouring Denmark, meanwhile, are among Europe’s toughest as a result of the influence of the right-wing Danish People’s Party. And the UK’s attitude to refugees and asylum seekers has been negative, to say the least.


It all shows a failure to learn from the horrors of 20th-century European history, and is an extremely dangerous development. We must act now to prevent a return to those dark and horrific days of Europe’s past.


Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.

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