Europe’s nationalists aim high in EU elections

Right turn: Across Europe, three-quarters of voters think politics is broken in some form.

Is fascism returning to Europe? This Thursday, millions of people will vote in EU-wide elections to determine the continent’s future. Far-right parties are poised to make big gains.

In Milan on Saturday, leaders from several far-right parties across Europe gathered for a rally. A banner hung from a nearby window declaring, “Milan is anti-fascist.”

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, insists, “There are no extremists, racists or fascists in this square. […] The extremists are those who have governed Europe for the past 20 years.”

What is going on? In 48 hours, the European Union (EU) will hold one of the largest elections in the world. Around 400 million people are eligible to vote in elections to the European Parliament. The result could shape the future of the continent.

Those parties gathered in Milan are part of a nationalist group of EU parties called Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).

Each party is unique to its home country. However, they are united in opposing illegal immigration and EU “elites”.

The ENF is currently the EU’s smallest parliamentary group, with just 37 MEPs out of 751.

However, it is poised to make big gains in this week’s election. Meanwhile, the leading groups of centrist parties will get smaller.

Rising right?

Should we be worried by the rise of far-right parties in Europe? Last October, the European Economic and Social Committee warned, “Fascism is on the rise again.” It compared the far-right parties to those which almost destroyed Europe before World War Two. “Halting this wave is fundamental, as history shows clearly where it ends.”

But is fascism really back? At its core, fascism believes in a nation’s supremacy over others. As the historian Yuval Noah Harari put it last year, fascism tells us: “I don’t need to care about anybody or anything other than my nation.” That is not what we are facing in Europe. The ENF wants to reform the EU, but it does not want to destroy it.

You Decide

  1. Is Europe reliving the 1930s?

Activities

  1. Write your own definition of fascism, based on what you have read in this article and on your own knowledge.

Some People Say...

“Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”

Albert Einstein

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The EU election will take place between 23 and 26 May. The final results will be revealed on Sunday night.
What do we not know?
How well nationalist and far-right parties will do. We also do not know how well they will work together if they do gain more power since, unsurprisingly, each party has its own flavour and agenda.

Word Watch

European Parliament
The legislative body of the EU, which votes on new laws and regulations. It has 751 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) elected from all 28 EU countries.
Nationalist
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED): “A person who strongly identifies with their own nation and vigorously supports its interests.”
Fascism
According to the OED: “An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government.” Fascist parties rose to power in the 1930s in Europe, including Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.