Question: What didn’t happen overnight, threatens the continuity of the EU and brought back to the surface something most wished had died in Berlin in 1945?
Hands up anyone that answered “Far Right.”
Most will have heard of Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Poland’s Law and Justice Party and Germany’s AfD (Alternative für Deutschland). Last Sunday’s elections in Austria saw the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) emerge as the most prominent party in parliament with 31.7 percent of the vote.
The trend doesn’t confine itself to the Northern and Central EU member states. Greece has had a far-right party, Golden Dawn, in parliament since 2012. In Cyprus, ELAM, the National Popular Front has had MPs since the 2016 elections.
The list could go on with far-right parties emerging (and gaining in support) across the European Union, and the spread doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. From the Mediterranean to the Baltic and almost everything in between.
The reasons are numerous, but as with anything rooted in rhetoric and populism, the far right needed a scapegoat. This time around the rallying cry is “immigration.” The endless stream of refugees arriving from the war-stricken regions of the Middle East and North Africa, namely Syria, Iraq, and Libya together with the millions of illegal immigrants seeking a better financial future in Europe have stretched the resources of some member states to a breaking point.
Greece is a case in point with the authorities there, already crippled by prohibitive budget cuts, unable to cope with the waves of immigrants reaching the country.
This is fertile ground for the far right. It’s always easier to blame someone else for your misfortunes instead of taking responsibility for your actions. Greece is again a good illustration. Illegal immigrants didn’t cause the economic collapse of the country. Dizzying, self-indulgent Government overspending brought about the financial woes plaguing the country now but its far more comfortable to blame illegal immigration.
Europe has an aging population. A population that has seen government spending on pensions and health care slashed. A society that is more susceptible to the rhetoric that fuels any form of extremism. But Europe also has rampant unemployment among the young, with some countries youth unemployment above 35% and the EuroZone average hovering at a hair below 19%.
Floods of immigrants make for grim reading for the unemployed. All the goodwill and solidarity in the world towards refugees from the horrors of the war in Syria, for example, does little to detract from the fact that this will be a drain on already over-stretched public sector funds.
The far right emergence in the European Union has another side to it. Most of the populist parties are at least mildly Eurosceptic while many are vehement in their opposition to the notion of a united Europe.
The future of the European Union seems to lie in the hands of Germany and France for the time being. Germany at least though has more to contend with since the September elections and the phenomenal rise of the AfD. Brexit also weighs heavily on German shoulders as German industry has the most to lose in any tariff war with the United Kingdom.
It takes unusually rose-colored spectacles to make the future of the European Union look anything but bleak. It’s not irreversible, but the biggest threat to the EU comes from within the EU itself.
This article is for educational and informative purposes only and should not be considered as investment or trading advice.