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Right-wing Extremism: a New Threat to Europe

February 15, 2010 1 comment

We have recently released the results of our latest research on right-wing extremism. The fact that right-wing extremism is on the rise comes as no surprise. More and more extremist political parties are achieving political success in local, national or European elections. What we were interested in was the social background of extremism: How deeply is it rooted in different societies in Europe and beyond?

The most important conclusion is that while Western societies seem more or less reluctant to embrace such ideologies, some of the new EU members in the east are highly predisposed to right-wing extremism, as are countries beyond the EU’s eastern borders.

This phenomenon poses several threats to the European Union:

  1. A new division is evolving between East and West. It is similar to the Iron Curtain, though its borders do not exactly follow the original. It is not made of barbed wire, but of ideas and politics. Still, it is capable of separating Europe’s two halves for a very long time.
  2. Mainstream political parties in Central and South Eastern Europe  are reacting to the new popular demand for extremism and may apply some of its features to their own political agendas. It’s not that these mainstream parties will become extremists themselves; however, since politics is about hunting for voters, moderates will have to attract more and more extremists to win elections.
  3. Common features of this new political extremism are Euroscepticism and pro-Russian foreign policies. Both undermine the core values of the European Union.

So what now? Countries that are most infected with right-wing extremism have developed different strategies to cope with it, but none of them seems to work. It is therefore extremely important that decision-makers in Brussels not leave these young democracies to their own devices. Brussels should:

  1. Put more effort into analysing and understanding the rise of right-wing extremism;
  2. Understand that this is not a problem of faraway exotic countries. It will punch Europe in the face sooner than expected;
  3. Set up a network of  experts from outside the political sphere and help them cooperate with one another;
  4. Collect best practices on coping with extremists;
  5. Create a European strategy to halt the spread of extremism;
  6. Tell Central Europe’s mainstream political parties very clearly not to meddle with extremism.

The rise of extremism represents a wake-up call to Brussels.

Krisztian Szabados

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