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Why the Right is Rising in Europe

Updated: Mar 24

In the midst of an economic downturn, the right is on the rise across Europe following widespread policy issues, such as the rising cost of living, the housing crisis, the effects of mass immigration and environmentalist intervention within the EU. Meanwhile, the largest European war since 1945 is raging on in Ukraine.


After decades of the European right’s irrelevance, the tide is changing. Right-wing parties have come to power in Italy and Finland, and have won seat majorities in the Netherlands. Simultaneously, right-wing opposition parties are growing in Germany, France, Switzerland and Sweden


The EU is a supranational organization, so its members overlap politically, socially and economically. As such, many European governments have had similar ideological leanings and political aims.


An unintended consequence of the EU, however, is the widespread effects of any given policy’s negative externalities. The right has been invigorated by the decline in the quality of life that some progressive policies have produced across much of the EU.


The European right promotes nationalism, Euroscepticism (skepticism of the EU) and anti-environmentalism.  Growing dissatisfaction with the EU stems from the effects of mass immigration and environmentalist policy at the cost of national prosperity. Nations in the EU surrender a degree of national sovereignty to Brussels. The right perceives policymakers in their nations as pursuing the will of the EU’s parliament rather than the nation's taxpayers. 


Europe’s shift to the right is attributed to populism. Populism can be defined as the political approach which sympathizes with, and appeals to, the average citizen. Since the far-right often benefits from populism, it has acquired a negative connotation, despite it being the result of democracy.


Perhaps the left’s attempt to label populism as a problem suggests that it would rather criticize the function of democracy than audit its own mistakes. This pattern is ubiquitous in leftist and center coalitions across Europe.


When faced with criticism, or when the right rears its head on valid concerns over the negative effects of policies, there are efforts made to discredit opposition by labeling it as ignorant and hateful.


If applied to neo-fascist ideologies, these critiques are obviously valid. But they’re often used to silence right-wing voices overall. The left’s efforts to discredit opposition only expose its unwillingness and inability to deviate from the European status quo.


Citizens across the EU are witnessing an influx of unskilled and unemployed asylum seekers who are freely housed by the state. When juxtaposed with the worsening housing crisis and the rising cost of living, paying for an increase in immigration seems nonsensical to many – whatever the moral or ethical justifications may be. The right-wing parties in power in Italy, the Netherlands and Finland, as well as rising parties in Germany and France, are all vehemently opposed to further immigration at the cost of the citizens of their nations.


Environmental progressivism has also been pedaled by many European governments in line with the stances held in Brussels. One example of this comes from the Netherlands ‘nitrogen wars’.


In attempting to reduce nitrogen emissions and trying to comply with EU conservation quotas, the Dutch government suggested halving the nation’s livestock. The Netherlands exports the second most agricultural products by value in the world. Yet, in order to satisfy the EU’s ambitions, the Dutch government is shifting the burden to its populous and the nation’s leading industry.


In response, Dutch farmers have repeatedly driven tractors into metropolitan areas and created massive traffic jams throughout several years of protest. Much of the Dutch public was sympathetic to these frustrations, and combined with concerns over immigration and the economy, change seemed inevitable. In late November of this year, the right-wing PVV (Party for Freedom) won a surprise majority in the Dutch Parliamentary elections. 


The War in Ukraine is a watershed moment for European politics. The EU has given almost 90 billion USD in aid to Ukraine. The war has increased food and energy prices in Europe, exacerbating the cost of living crisis. The war has created millions of refugees who are immigrating to the EU amidst the ongoing housing crisis. 


The increase of right-wing victories in elections across Europe indicates a growing trend. In June of 2024, there will be an EU parliamentary election. The right could potentially gain control of the European Union.


However, many right-wing parties have made clear their goals to leave the European Union. Unless the EU's progressive policies are reoriented to align with shifting public opinions, the EU may soon be history.  


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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