Rise of far-right worries EU leaders

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat joined other European leaders in warning that if the European project isn’t strengthened, we could see a return to 1930’s fascism.

“We must act now, or else face the risk that the European project will perish. Worse still, it could be suffocated by populist leaders for whom our Union is nothing but an anomaly of history, up for destruction,” they said in an op-ed entitled ‘Wake up Europe!‘.

If far-right parties and Euroskeptic populists increase there share of votes in the 2019 European Parliament elections, the future of Europe will be in jeopardy as will the prospects of traditional parties retaining power and Muscat’s aspirations to hold a top EU job in Brussels – which heavily depends on the backing of mainstream parties.

The op-ed which appeared in major European newspapers including the Guardian, El País and Libération, was signed by a number of European leaders including Muscat’s close ally and rejected former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the leader of Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche Christophe Castaner and the leader of the liberals in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt.

Although Muscat is under-fire over corruption and the rule of law in Malta, he is set to increase his share of the vote in next year’s European elections. Yet, the op-ed underlines the growing concerns among traditional mainstream parties over the burgeoning popularity of far-right and populist parties and voter apathy.

Polls suggest that far-right parties across Europe are set for massive gains in next year’s European Parliament elections and the op-ed singled out right-wing leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, France’s Marie le Pen and Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini as a threat.

“Instead of Salvini’s threats of “mass cleansing” or “getting rid of Islam”, or Le Pen’s “doing away with Europe”, we proudly proclaim we still believe in the Union’s founding values of peace, freedom, prosperity and solidarity. And we will fight to both protect and retain them,” they said.

Although they do not espouse Salvini and Orban’s anti-immigration rhetoric, EU leaders have shown no willingness to agree on a common migration policy based on shared responsibility and like Italy’s far-right government, Malta and France have refused entry to ships carrying rescued migrants and NGO vessels remain blocked in Maltese ports.

The ascendency of far-right and Euroskeptic parties in Italy, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland has led to Donald Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon to predict the emergence of a right-wing “supergroup” in next year’s elections which he said could win up to one-third of the 705 seats up for grabs.

On the other hand Macron’s popularity in France continues to tumble while traditional centre-right parties such as Angela Merkel’s CDU in Germany and centre-left parties such as Renzi’s Democratic Party in Italy are in decline.

Underlining this urgency, the leaders said “eight months is all we have left to reawaken Europe. So we must come together to act now.”


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