In “History of the modern and contemporary world” aka my history textbook, appears the following observation: The disarmament and official blame for World War I and its consequences, led in Germany to the rise of the extreme Nazi movement. The loss of territory and humiliating treatment by the Allies, led in the Ottoman Empire to the rise of the nationalistic movement of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In the light of recent events, this observation becomes increasingly more important. The rise of nationalistic parties in the European Union (EU), may by some be regarded as evolution, but is for others nothing more than history repeating itself.
All across Europe extreme nationalistic parties have been gaining votes and power. As shown in the recent European Parliament Elections, France’s National Front won with 25% of the vote, the Freedom Party of Austria received 20%, the Golden Dawn in Greece 10%, and Hungary’s Jobbik party 15 %. Other such parties include the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the UK Independence Party (Ukip), as well as movements in Denmark, Holland, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.
Far-right parties are fueled mainly by dissatisfaction with the EU. Inclusion comes at the expense of individual power and fear that immigration is threatening economic growth and cultural identity. The financial crisis has created a socioeconomic gap and financial dependency between northern and southern countries, resulting in vaguer definitions of sovereignty and self-determination, as well as resentment from both parties. The donors feel that their country’s wealth is unwisely dispersed and the receivers feel their independence is compromised. They have gained increasingly more support for a couple of reasons: opportunistic communication on issues such as immigration and national security, low turnout rates among those who traditionally vote for mainstream parties, and populist promises.
But it is the emergence of a subtler force, labeled the “new far-right” which is most interesting: parties that have managed to tone down their manner and to soften their message. Pia Kjaersgaard, who led the Danish People’s Party until 2012, managed to shape what appeared to be a crowd of racists and trouble-makers into a disciplined political force. She was careful not to recruit members who would convey an extremist image and has urged a similar cleansing in Sweden’s anti-immigration and anti-Brussels movement, the Sweden Democrats. A similar make-over was attempted by Marine le Pen, of the National Front, who shook off the anti-Semitism and homophobia associated with the Party under her father’s leadership.
But what does this development mean for Europe and the EU? Journalist Andrew Higgins argues that the trend in Europe does not indicate the return of fascism, except in Greece where Golden Dawn has promoted neo-Nazi beliefs, and in Hungary where nationalism has inspired anti-Semitism. When it comes to the EU however, the impact they can have is depending on their willingness to cooperate. To form a voting bloc in the new European Parliament, far-right parties need to muster a minimum of 25 members from at least seven countries. Despite the National Front’s triumph, whether it will succeed in creating the bloc remains uncertain. Le Pen’s biggest ally, the Netherlands Freedom Party, did less well than expected, whereas allies in Belgium and Slovakia may not make it into the Parliament. Parties, like the Golden Dawn, are too extreme to join, whereas others, like Ukip, are disinclined to be associated with the radical right.
Both traditionally mainstream parties and Brussels are worried by the impact a Euroskeptic voting bloc can have in the European Parliament. Even if the policy does not become evidently more radical, the rhetoric and balance in the Parliament will definitely shift. The commission supported the Swedish government and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to carry out a cross-border study for solutions to far-right extremism across 10 EU member states. A brief summary of their propositions includes an urge for clear and comprehensive legislation on hate crime, including legal recognition for the victims and higher penalties for the perpetrators, national exit-programs providing former members of far-right parties with safe social networks, help in the process of finding jobs, and relocate, and smarter policing to ensure minimum damage to local communities and businesses during far-right marches and demonstrations.
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Danish Prime Minister, says that “History reminds us that high unemployment and wrong policies like austerity are an extremely poisonous cocktail.” We know that to be true, as well as we know that history is written by the victors. So why do we, as the victors of previous battles, seem ready to repeat the same mistakes the defeated made? Will the rise of far-right parties in Europe result in Nazism and fascism regaining popularity? Only time will tell, but now we must decide if we are ready to take the leap.
Higgins, Andrew. “Right Wing’s Surge in Europe Has the Establishment Rattled.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 June 2014.
Khader, Naser. “The Rise Of Far-right Parties In The European Parliament.”Αnalysts for Change. N.p., 15 June 2014. Web. 20 June 2014.
Ramalingam, Vidhya. “The European Far Right Is on the Rise, Again.”Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 June 2014.
Simons, Jake Wallis. “EU Elections 2014: The Rise of the New European Right.”The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 13 May 2014. Web. 20 June 2014.
Willsher, Kim, and Ian Traynor. “Front National Wins European Parliament Elections in France.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 26 May 2014. Web. 17 June 2014.