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Far Right Political Actors in Europe (October 2019): Euroscepticism

by Simeon Mitropolitski


Social inequalities and uncertainties nourish the European political Far Right. European integration, its issues, dynamic, and problems also help explain elements of this phenomenon. The negative image of other Europeans, of foreigners in general, and of economic interests whose centre of gravity is located outside the realm of national democratic process is becoming more frequently used for the purposes of extreme Right political mobilization. Euroscepticism becomes a powerful additional tool for changing relations within European national political systems.

Euroscepticism and the Far Right are two phenomena that do not perfectly overlap. When they do, the results may not only derail the process of European integration but also lead to worsening quality of the liberal democratic political system. The Routledge Handbook of Euroscepticism, edited by Benjamin Leruth, Nicholas Startin, and Simon Usherwood, draws the lines of this overlap, without missing many other important elements that are part of Euroscepticism. This handbook focuses on both the thematic dimension of the phenomenon, such as economic interests, austerity, and ideology, and on many national cases that illustrate its elements, such as Britain in the time of Brexit, and Benelux and Scandinavian countries. Europe’s Crises, edited by Manuel Castells et al. (2018), builds on the understanding that links economic austerity and the rise of the political Far Right. This argument is illustrated with examples from several European countries, such as Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

Prebble Ramswell sets the stage in Euroscepticism and the Rising Threat from the Left and Right: The Concept of Millennial Fascism, which focuses on the most recent wave of Euroscepticism. The author considers this phenomenon as an evolved form of fascism, as a reinterpretation and new iteration of the ideology that propelled Mussolini and Hitler to power.

The picture becomes more complicated because Euroscepticism is not identical across countries. Sofia Vasilopoulou suggests in Far Right Parties and Euroscepticism: Patterns of Opposition that domestic political context and perceptions of national identity may lead to three different types of Euroscepticism: anti-system Far Right parties, like the French National Front, tend to opt for a rejectionist position on the EU; anti-liberal Far Right parties, like Greek Popular Orthodox Rally, tend to be conditional Eurosceptics; and normalized Far Right parties, like the Italian National Alliance, tend to adopt a compromising position on the EU. The different degrees of Euroscepticism are also a topic in Euroscepticism: Images of Europe among Mass Publics and Political Elites, edited by Dieter Fuchs, Raul Magni-Berton, and Antoine Roger. Among the possible causes of this difference are economic factors, social cleavages, and cultural perceptions of Europe.

This section on Euroscepticism would not be complete without putting it into the context of European refugee crisis. Although the political Far Right is not the central topic in A European Crisis: Perspectives on Refugees, Solidarity, and Europe, edited by Timofey Agarin and Nevena Nancheva, the subject and its different dimensions, both material and cultural, represent the background against which the rise of right populism becomes possible.