The popularity of the extreme right has increased in Europe recently. the strength of this right was demonstrated by its victory in the Italian and Swedish elections. Moreover, this growth was not limited to Sweden and Italy only. Indeed, Europe’s largest country has witnessed an unprecedented growth of radical right-wing parties over the past months.
Last September, radical right-wing Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) won 10% of the vote in the last German parliamentary elections. In April, Marine Le Pen — Leader of France’s anti-immigrant National Rally Party — won 41.8% of the vote in the second round of the presidential election against French President Emmanuel Macron.
In the same month, Bulgarian right-wing party Fidesz won 52.73% of the vote, representing a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary elections. So, Viktor Orban — the Leader of the right-wing party known for his anti-immigration stance — was re-elected as prime minister for the fourth time.
Finally, in June, the right-wing National Rally Party won 89 seats in the French parliamentary elections, and these results are a major victory for the right-wing parties in France. Thus, after these latest statistics, we can say with confidence that the extreme nationalist right is witnessing a growing rise in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Sweden, Hungary, Spain, and Italy. In other words, the far right is experiencing an unprecedented incursion across Europe.
Certainly, the far right is very different from the traditional right. While the conservative traditional right calls for the preservation of the cultural identity of the community through dialogue and peaceful means, right-wing extremists use discrimination and racist ideas to protect this identity, which they believe is threatened by foreigners and refugees. In this context, the extreme right adopts xenophobic ideas, spreading a racist and isolationist discourse, and hiding behind nationalist ideas.
In fact, the danger of this growing isolationist rhetoric lies in its potential to dismantle the EU. This is especially so after Britain’s exit, which certainly constituted an unprecedented shock to this entity and opened the doors for the possible eventual exit of many countries and the disintegration of the West in its current form.
Today, the hypothesis of the collapse of the EU is highly probable. This is especially so since the issue of the disintegration of the union is not new, because many crises have contributed to the increasing possibilities of the union’s collapse.
The beginning of these crises was in 2008, when the economic crisis occurred, followed by the Ukrainian crisis, and finally the refugee influx crisis following the strategic shifts in the Middle East, including the Syrian crisis. This is in addition to the plans to stop the agreement that allows freedom of movement between member states.
However, it can be said that the real crisis currently afflicting the union and leading to the growth of extremist rhetoric is the crisis of mistrust between governments and politicians on the one hand and between governments and citizens of the union on the other.
Undoubtedly, the successes that Russia is achieving day after day since 2008 are among the most important crises that undermine the confidence of the European citizen in the union’s ability to provide security and peace. This is especially so since the EU was established primarily to end the devastation and suffering caused by the Second World War on the continent.
In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and effectively annexed the regions of South Ossetia and Anjazia, and the EU was unable to rescue it at that time. After that, Russia launched a second war on Ukraine and managed to annex the Crimea region, while the EU was again unable to take any action to stop this.
Today, Russia is waging its third war, and Putin announced the annexation of four new Ukrainian regions to Russia. All of this is happening while the EU stands helpless to do anything about it but impose sanctions, which has become completely ineffective.
This Russian success has spread fear among the Europeans and convinced them that their dependence on each other does not guarantee the provision of security and that the European project does not provide sufficient guarantees to achieve security and peace in the face of these threats.
In addition to the union’s inability to provide security for the European citizen, in recent years, the union’s inability to provide economic welfare has also become prevalent. This is where the unemployment rate and external debt increased dramatically, especially after the coronavirus pandemics and the refugee influx crisis. There is also the sharp decline in economic growth rates, according to many reports, along with the main problem, which is the great economic disparity among the member states.
Therefore, it has been proven to the European citizen today that the union is no longer capable of achieving the goals that it was created to achieve. Today, the EU is no longer able to achieve the economic well-being of citizens, nor achieve security and stability in the face of various challenges.
Therefore, the European voter found refuge in the concept of the nation-state and the protectionist, isolationist discourse. This would certainly pose a strong threat to that regional entity and undermine the European project very soon.
* Marwa Al-Shinawy is an Assistant Professor at the International American University for Specialised Studies (IAUS)