Europe at the Crossroads: Right Populism and Reactionary Rebellion

Walter Baier

Abstract


Europe, whose core is the European Union (EU), may soon enter the acute stage of a political crisis. Underlying it is a sustained economic crisis, which is hitting different countries and regions in different ways, creating increasingly divergent centrifugal tendencies which are reflected in the growth of radical right parties. In the 2014 elections to the European Parliament (EP) such parties secured the largest vote in Great Britain (Ukip: 27 per cent), Denmark (Folkeparti: 27 per cent), and France (Front National: 25 per cent). And although the performance of the openly neo-Nazi parties in the 2014 European Parliament elections varied, they surpassed the social democrats in Hungary, where Jobbik got almost 15 per cent of the vote, and in Greece where Golden Dawn got almost 10 per cent – although it was Syriza that won the day in anticipation of their victory in the national election at the beginning of 2015. The British National Party (BNP), Bulgaria’s Attack Party, and Belgium’s Flemish Interest Party (VB) almost disappeared from the political map – although in all three cases votes were picked up by modernized, right-wing radical parties operating in a populist style. Overall, extremist parties now account for a fifth of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), although many are unaffiliated with any of the three blocks that other far-right nationalist MEPs belong to: the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), and the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the latter formed only one year after the elections under the leadership of Marine Le Pen. In contrast, Hungary’s FIDESZ, led by Viktor Orbán, despite exhibiting the characteristics of a populist right-wing party in many ways, has found its place even in the mainstream conservative European People’s Party.

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