X Close

A watershed moment is coming for the European Right

Giorgia Meloni: the new powerbroker? Credit: Getty

May 3, 2024 - 7:00am

“A hard-right tidal wave is about to hit the EU,” warned former prime minister Gordon Brown in the Guardian this week. “Ultra-nationalist demagogues and populist-nationalists are now leading the polls in Italy, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia,” he continued, ominously claiming that “these factions are forcing the hand of the traditional centre-right parties — which, one by one, are capitulating to ever more extreme anti-immigration, anti-trade and anti-environment positions.”

As EU parliamentary elections approach on 6-9 June, such doom-laden prophecies are nothing unusual. Warnings of the calamitous effects which will supposedly result from predicted Right-wing gains are growing ever more insistent, and as Brown indicates, speculation is rife as to whether the expected increase in Right-wing representation could bring about major change in the EU’s political centre.

In a debate this week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refused to rule out collaborating with the Right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists parliamentary group after the election, saying this would depend “on the composition of the parliament, and who is in what group”. The coy response of this champion of centrism to the question of potential cooperation with parties such as Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy or Poland’s Law and Justice provoked howls of outrage from the Left. “Either you can deal with the extreme Right because you need them, or you say clearly that no deal is possible because they do not respect fundamental rights,” expostulated Nicolas Schmit, the lead candidate for the Party of European Socialists.

Yet in recent months von der Leyen has drawn increasing ire for appearing to flirt with more conservative ideology. While she has pursued agreements with North African states, in collaboration with the likes of Meloni, to try to clamp down on illegal immigration — an approach which Left-wing EU parliamentarians decry as “throwing money at dictators” — her election campaign team has crafted a more traditionally conservative personal image emphasising family and security. “As a mother of seven, I want my children’s children to grow up in a safe, prosperous Europe,” reads the lead statement on von der Leyen’s campaign website.

Still, although centrists are likely to be increasingly influenced by the Right on crucial matters such as immigration and security after the elections, another ideological dividing line may grow starker. While leaving the door open to potential collaboration with the ECR, von der Leyen slammed the Identity and Democracy (ID) EU parliamentary faction — which includes France’s Rassemblement National and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland — as “Putin’s proxies”. It is equally hard to imagine that centrists would ever form an alliance with “pro-Russian” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or Slovak leader Robert Fico, neither of whose parties currently belong to any EU parliamentary faction.

As Right-wing policies and rhetoric on matters such as immigration become more mainstream across Europe, issues around foreign policy interventionism appear likely to come to the fore as the new fundamental dividing line. This, like the enduring divisions over the EU’s Green Deal, highlights disagreements between nationalists and federalists, isolationists and interventionists, which will persist regardless of election results. What’s more, they will ensure that, even if a surge in Right-wing representation does come to pass, certain parties will remain, for centrists, forever beyond the pale.


William Nattrass is a British journalist based in Prague and news editor of Expats.cz

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

23 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrew R
Andrew R
19 days ago

European electorates want competence in all the key areas of government, for the last 30 years they have had incompetence and ideology.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
19 days ago

Frankly, when I look at what’s going on on US campuses and on the streets in many European cities, the thought of a tidal wave of the Left gives me more jitters.

Anthony Sutcliffe
Anthony Sutcliffe
19 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

We’re going to get it in the UK. We’re out of step – brexit came too early perhaps. Now we have a left party that can’t do anything economically (it has no ideas or understanding) and so will resort to constitutional changes and woke give aways.

It’s going to be utterly galling.

AC Harper
AC Harper
19 days ago

Labour (and the Conservatives too for that matter) seem to welcome constraint of Parliamentary sovereignty by laws and treaties. So it’s possible that future constitutional change and woke giveaways will be open to non-Parliamentary challenge. It will be tedious but that’s the result of a two party system…Parliament and the Lawyers.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
18 days ago

Thank the Tories for not delivering on their promises.

Martin M
Martin M
16 days ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

In fairness to the Tories, they did deliver Brexit.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
19 days ago

I’m not far right. I’m just right so far.

Anthony Sutcliffe
Anthony Sutcliffe
19 days ago

Haha! I’m going to use that one

Steve Houseman
Steve Houseman
19 days ago

Yahoo. Love it as well. A keeper!

David L
David L
18 days ago

I’ll take the so-called “far right” over the far left hatemongers every time.

AC Harper
AC Harper
19 days ago

“A hard-right tidal wave is about to hit the EU, ”

Or possibly a Left critical tide is rising throughout the EU?
You could argue that many policies dear to the ‘Left wing’ have achieved their current dominance through monstering the opposition and free speech… to the point that the tantrums of ‘the Left’ have generated its own pushback.
When you see a toddler throwing a tantrum on the floor of the supermarket it is a mistake to indulge them.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
19 days ago

As Right-wing policies and rhetoric on matters such as immigration become more mainstream across Europe, issues around foreign policy interventionism appear likely to come to the fore as the new fundamental dividing line. 

Strange how any time in modern European history that the hoi polloi start getting uppity the Russian menace suddenly re-appears.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
19 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The Russia of the 20th century was a communist state, the Russia of today is a fascist state, and at the moment they are a potential menace with ambitions to rebuild their influence.

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
19 days ago

‘Gordon Brown’, that superannuated, threadbare old Marxist carpet slipper . . . Why on earth don’t these failed old politicians ever do the decent thing and fade silently into the night?
I suppose the Graundiad gives him airtime since they are facing cutbacks it’s cheap copy as presumably he’s not paid for his senile maunderings.
Immigration will be the death of the EU, without any doubt. That and an obsession with climate crap.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
18 days ago

Say what you will about Gordon Brown, Biden is far more stupid. .

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
19 days ago

Hilarious.
We are about to step left as the rest of Europe steps right.
Oh how contrary we Brits are!
I wonder if ‘Alistair Campbell & The Remoaners’ will think “phew, glad we’re not part of that ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-trade, anti-environment Euro block”.
I suspect not!

David Butler
David Butler
18 days ago

The EU and most of the western world have been drowning in deep, far-left waters for far too long.
Perhaps the “tidal wave” will clear out the flotsam and jetsam?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
18 days ago

The so-called centrists running the joint still refuse to look inward and ask themselves why there is a populist backlash. They have made people poorer, less safe and less free. Voters don’t like it.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
17 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Top comment.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
18 days ago

Viktor Orbán is as pro-American as he is pro-Putin. but Russia is closer to Hungary and its population of a mere 10 million and he must take that into consideration. That makes him a realist, something that infuriates the war mongers in the West who believe like George Bush and the people responsible for Biden’s opinions and actions that you are either for us or against us.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
16 days ago

When the people in Europe have less kids, the people in power, as a quick fix, import more people from Africa, Asia, etc., INSTEAD of promoting more family-friendly policies (grow the economy, more housing, free child-care, and so on).

Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
15 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

What is needed is a program of government subsidized mortgage loans for the purchase of a home that will be jointly owned by a married couple. Then half the loan should be forgiven after ten years, provided they are still married and have produced at least two natural kids. If they get divorced, or produce no offspring, then no loan forgiveness.

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
16 days ago

Tough. Democracy doesn’t always mean your political friends are in power.
Sometimes, you need to abide by the the will of these pesky electors.