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Europe is Shifting Rightwards

Updated: Mar 15

Much of Europe is experiencing something that has not happened since before the Second World War: right-wing parties are on the rise. The UK took the first step by leaving the EU through its Brexit vote, a move generally praised on the right. The current Prime Minister of Italy, the first female to fill that role, is the nation's most decidedly right-wing leader since Mussolini.

Germany’s far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party is quickly gaining traction, especially in the Eastern half of the country, and is being labeled as extremist by the current German government. Last year, France saw nearly a tenfold increase in right-wing lawmakers and is currently witnessing an uptick in far-right activism and demonstrations.

The recent Netherlands election saw an increase in seats for the right-wing PVV (Party for Freedom), sending shockwaves through the EU. Ireland has seen its first political mob violence since its founding, sparked by growing dissatisfaction with left-wing policy and recent deterioration in the quality of life. The “European right” is on the rise, but what is it exactly?

The political terms “right” and “left” date back to the French Revolution, in which the National Convention meetings saw the supporters of monarchy and aristocracy sit on the right of the room, while liberal reformists sat on the left. Moderates sat in the center.

These terms are still used to represent parties in modern politics, but the norm of monarchy in late 18th-century Europe has been entirely reversed. Currently, the status quo of the EU promotes left-wing, social-democratic parties that agree on most social issues and primarily focus the debate on economic policy. This has been the case since the end of the Second World War when right-wing totalitarian governments initiated the deadliest conflict in world history and destroyed Old Europe. 

The creation of the EU saw Europe enter a new era of unprecedented collaboration on the intrastate level. EU citizens could now travel and work across borders within the eurozone and all share one currency, the Euro.

The modern European identity was shaped by these organizations, which also initiated the openness and liberalization of European society and formed a progressive ideology that permeated much of the continent's elite circles.

The European right tends to be dissatisfied with this state of affairs, supporting nationalism in opposition to European unity, advocating for greater immigration security (being quite anti-immigration in some cases) and decrying the overreach of environmental policy. A growing number of right-wing voters believe that the EU supports the bureaucrats in Brussels at the expense of the average European citizen.

The right is taking advantage of a growing incongruence between public opinion and government policy. From its perspective, the left has taken missteps in both social and economic progressivism, steps that European taxpayers, it is argued, do not agree with.

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