The rise of right-wing extremism in Europe

Sunday 18/09/2016
French far-right party National Front (FN) supporters during a political rally in Brachay, north-eastern France, on September 3rd.

Paris - Europe is facing a rising tide of right-wing extrem­ism. Extremist parties — whether called right-wing or far-right or ultra-nationalists — are in government in Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Hun­gary and Poland.
So far, those groups are in gov­ernment just as coalition partners but indicators are that Europe is experiencing a distinct move to the right amid rising rhetoric against migration and the idea of open bor­ders. This is something that could become a threat to European unity, particularly given Britain’s decision to leave the European Union fol­lowing a referendum in which the main issue was migration.
In light of what is the worst ref­ugee crisis since the end of World War II, a number of EU govern­ments have taken stances that seem to go against the stated objec­tives and values of the union, par­ticularly in terms of human rights and freedom of movement. The European Parliament has seen the rise of right-wing extremist parties, with 23% of the members of the body belonging to far-right-wing parties.
In three EU members, right-wing extremist parties — the National Front in France; Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which played a pivotal role in Brexit; and the Danish Peo­ple’s Party in Denmark — enjoy the strongest share of their countries’ representation. Their policies fo­cus on immigration.
As for the humanitarian policy taken by German Chancellor An­gela Merkel to receive refugees and migrants during this unprecedent­ed crisis, it is one that increasingly seems it might cost her political future.
The European Union is confront­ed with a growing wave of nation­alistic tendencies, which are most prevalent among right-wing par­ties and which could threaten the very existence of the union. While even the left-wing parties, which traditionally have been more sup­portive of the EU project, are caus­ing problems with populist policies that seek to incite the general pub­lic against the elite and undermine the credibility of the authorities.
There is a call to prioritise na­tional security and national inter­ests over the European Union’s interests, even with regards to sen­sitive issues such as human rights and the asylum dilemma. This is something that is increasingly be­ing seen in the policies taken by the governments of Hungary, Po­land and Slovakia, which are go­ing so far as to ignore EU laws and conventions on the pretext that the will of the people must prevail.
Hungary has refused to accept mandatory migrant relocation quotas set by the European Union and has scheduled a referendum on the issue, with hard-line Prime Minister Viktor Orban calling for people to vote against the EU direc­tive. This idea — national interests trumping EU responsibilities — has weakened the credibility of the union as a single body able to take unified decisions.
Greece, which has faced the brunt of the refugee crisis as a result of refugees arriving from Turkey, has also seen the rise of right-wing parties, particularly the Independent Greeks, who are in a coalition government with the far left-wing Syriza. This coalition of extremists of opposing sides is ne­cessitated by the country’s ailing economy, which was hardest hit by the 2008 global financial crisis and is unable to meet the requirements of dealing with all these refugees. While the infamous far-right Gold­en Dawn party, described by some as being a neo-Nazi group, is more popular than ever and even has a number of MEPs.
The European Union is struggling for a coherent strategy to deal with an unprecedented migration crisis. It is difficult to develop a long-term vision in this regard given the dif­ferent political and economic situ­ation in each EU member. If it fails to come up with a mutually accept­able and effective solution to this worsening crisis and check the rise of right-wing parties that are prior­itising an ultra-nationalist agenda, then the European Union may be facing an existential threat.