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Against the far right, hope springs from Germany and Poland  

In my 16 November press review, I looked at the seemingly inevitable rise of far-right ideas in many EU Member States. However, two recent events merit our full attention for highlighting the extent to which civil society is mobilising to counter this trend, three and a half months ahead of crucial European elections.

In Germany, massive demonstrations in response to the rise of the far right indicate that the tolerance threshold for the actions of far-right political parties has been exceeded. Tens of thousands of people marched over several days in cities throughout the country, and continue to do so at weekends, to denounce the racist ideology of the extreme right. The demonstrations follow revelations by Correctiv on 10 January of a secret meeting organised last November by the AfD and neo-Nazis to discuss a plan to deport millions of non-Germans and Germans of immigrant origin.

In another noteworthy development, on 23 January the German Constitutional Court issued an unprecedented ruling which bans the neo-Nazi party Die Heimat (Fatherland, formerly the NPD) from receiving public funding for the next six years, as reported in the Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung. Reporting on the debate that has begun across the Rhine about the possibility of taking legal action against the AfD, columnist Kersten Augustin asks “What do we do about the fascists?”  

In Poland, the newly elected government formed by Donald Tusk is trying its best to un-PiS the country’s state apparatuses and public media, although the purge is proving more difficult than expected. This should serve as a warning, writes British journalist and historian Timothy Garton Ash in his column for the British daily The Guardian. Restoring democracy is proving even more difficult than creating it from scratch: “The last few weeks in Polish politics have been dramatic, angry and sometimes bizarre. […] The biggest challenge for Tusk and his coalition partners will be to resist the temptation of simply turning the tables, installing their own partisan loyalists instead of the other lot.” Such a reconstruction will take time: “By the end of this parliamentary term, in 2027, the public service broadcaster should be more solidly impartial, the courts more fully independent, the president more unquestionably above parties, state-owned enterprises more thoroughly non partisan, the public administration and security services more truly independent – not just than they were under PiS, but than they were under earlier Polish governments, including Tusk’s own previous ones, before the populists came to power.”

For those who were unable to attend, you can listen to the replay of our conversation with Timothy Garton Ash at our Live event on 6 February (link), where the formidable expert on Poland discusses, among other things, the lesson that European democracies absolutely must learn from the Polish example.

As Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde has been hammering home for years, and as he wrote recently on X: “The far right is a loud minority, not the silent majority. Also, if the streets tell us anything, it is that ‘the people’ do NOT want far-right politics! Can media and politics finally take note?” In the Netherlands, the failure to form a coalition could lead to new elections, which would certainly play into the hands of Geert Wilders’ far-right PVV party (which came out on top in the 22 November general election). In his analysis for Le Grand Continent, Mudde reviews seven possible scenarios, “none of them attractive”. In the event of new elections, “the polls show that the PVV would emerge stronger, capable of dominating any coalition”, he warns. He goes on to denounce the failure “of the parties and the media so far”, which “continue to focus mainly on immigration or to adopt the PVV’s approaches on other issues, such as housing.” Words for the wise.

More picks

euronews | 7 February | EN

Members of the European Parliament have sounded the alarm to the European Commission about their “concerns” regarding the decline of rule of law in Greece, reports the international media outlet euronews. Harassment of journalists, bugging of political opponents, excessive use of force by the police, hostile campaigns against migrants… The MEPs are asking the European Commission to look into the criteria for obtaining European funds in Athens. According to the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, Greece is at the very bottom of the list of EU Member States.

Arancha Gonzales Laya, Camille Grand, Katarzyna Pisarska, Nathalie Tocci, Guntram Wolff | Foreign Affairs | 2 February | EN

From the Second World War to the present day, Europe has relied on the United States for its security, guiding NATO policy and nuclear deterrence, and even acting as arbiter between Member States on a number of issues, such as the European debt crisis in December 2009. If Trump is elected at the end of the year, the United States may well put an end to this protection. The American magazine looks at the concrete steps the EU can take to prepare for this potential abandonment by Washington.

In partnership with Display Europe, cofunded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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