Why Populist Parties are Bad for Europe

by No to Hate Politics


The rise of far right parties in Europe dates back to the euro crisis of 2008. Many Europeans got disappointed in politics and in the concept of the European Union. This political gap provided an excellent opportunity for populist parties to gain disillusioned voters over. Especially young, educated, easy-to-pursue adults joined them. It paved their way to national Parliaments, which ensures a legitimate forum for them to spread their ideas.

The message they communicate is usually composed of Euroscepticism, strong nationalism and explicitly or implicitly expressed hate toward immigrants and other minority groups living in their countries. Far right parties’ popularity is of great concern especially nowadays, since the Old Continent is preparing for the European Parliamentary elections held in May, 2014. Due
to numerous newspaper articles and political forecasts, it is probable that a significant number of Parliamentary seats will be taken by radical parties. Their high representation in the EP might impose an obstacle on debates over EU enlargement processes and integration policies. The fundamental problem is that they question the functioning and legitimacy of the EU’s institutional system.Their notion of supporting national sovereignty and independency is not compatible with the EU’s integration endeavors in their view.

Not long ago, both the British Prime Minister and leaders of the Hungarian extreme-right Jobbik party suggested the necessity of a referendum to ask citizens whether they wish their states remain members of the EU. Imposing restrictions on the number of immigrants arriving to the UK is another emerging debate in Britain. Switzerland, which belongs to the Schengen zone and member of EFTA, went further this week, since people have voted in favor of restricting immigration to the country. These events undermine the fundamental principles and freedoms of the Union and Europe itself. It debilitates the picture of an open, inclusive European Union, rested upon the aim of an economically and politically unified Europe. Xenophobic voices and anti-immigration attitudes disrupt the European community, and threaten the EU’s good connections with foreign allies. Nevertheless, it throws back its credibility on international platforms.

The current integration stage of the EU and its status in the world might be destructed by loud and provocative populist parties. It is likely that their off-color members makes the EU look ridiculous and light-minded in the eyes of international community. One might assume that young and aspirant politicians of far right parties would refresh the EU by setting new goals and apply different perspectives beneficial for the community. However, the rhetoric they use points to the opposite direction and projects the picture of a disintegrating Europe. The fight of clashing interests and differing opinions ideally leads to a comprehensive consensus between parties.

The continuous critique of the EU’s institutions and its functioning foments more thoughtful policy-making processes. It necessitates a respectful and intelligent way of debate, which is endangered now, with regard to the emerging popularity of far-right parties. The majority of EP seats will most probably go to moderate European parties in May, therefore, decision-making in the EU will not depend on populist lobby in the next five years. The harsh rhetoric used by the far right is appealing to many voters – and frightening to others.

The question emerges whether for how long will the EP’s composition remain similar to its current state. There is no guarantee that far right parties will always be on the verge of EU-level debates. If their support gradually increases over time, Europe might face a majority of extreme right representatives in Strasbourg in the future. Overall, this spring will be an exciting season in the life of Europe and the European Union, as well.