Europe and events in North Africa

Far-right figures such as France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally, Italian League’s Matteo Salvini and others are trying to unify their ranks and win larger representation in the 751-seat European Parliament.
Sunday 14/04/2019
French far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen sings the national anthem during a meeting in Saint-Paul-du-Bois, France, last February. (Reuters)
French far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen sings the national anthem during a meeting in Saint-Paul-du-Bois, France, last February. (Reuters)

The forthcoming elections for European Parliament, scheduled for May 23-26, are mobilising right-wing populists in Europe.

Far-right figures such as France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally, Italian League’s Matteo Salvini and others are trying to unify their ranks and win larger representation in the 751-seat European Parliament.

The issue of immigration is one that galvanises the far right, even if advocated prescriptions differ from one party to the other with some calling for outright bans on new arrivals and others for their redistribution among European countries.

Beyond its political and electoral expediency, the issue of migration that polarises Europe cannot be resolved without a real solution to the violence and instability gripping many countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Libya is a case in point. The chaos there since the fall of the Qaddafi regime has fuelled the emergence of armed gangs and militias as powers to be reckoned with. However, dealing with them as a way to stem the flow of illegal migrants, guarantee access to oil resources or buttress government authority is a temporary fix at best.

A durable solution would not be possible without ending the chaotic situation in the North African country that followed the 2011 NATO-led military campaign there. That would require restoring authority to a functional state and keeping arms in the hands of legitimate armed forces alone.

Salvini, Italy’s Interior minister, has a different take on the events in Libya eight years ago. “Some think that the (2011 NATO-led military intervention) in Libya promoted by (former French President Nicolas) Sarkozy was triggered more by economic and commercial interests than by humanitarian concerns,” he said.

The strife, violence and displacement in the Middle East and North Africa, Libya included, unleashed an unprecedented wave of illegal migration towards European shores.

Events in Libya, Algeria and Sudan have elicited measured responses in Europe, where leaders seem to have drawn the lessons of the instability and chaos that followed the 2011 uprisings.

Electoral calculations of the far right excepted, Europe has reason to see its own stability and security closely connected to that of North Africa.

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