Europe’s political landscape is undergoing a massive transformation. The parties that were marginalized by the liberal elites and mainstream media are strengthening throughout the continent, and the liberal ones are losing popularity. The trend showed itself in full during recent elections in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia, where right and right-center parties have either strengthened their positions compared to previous elections or won and formed the governments. These parties addressed issues of illegal immigration, and called for protectionist measures in their economies and emphasized a need to defend national sovereignty against neoliberal Brussels.
Regionalization and fragmentation are strengthening, too. In 2017, Great Britain started a Brexit process, which assumes the UK will leave the European Union by 2019. A significant example of a growing fragmentation is Spanish Catalonia which has declared its independence in 2017. Although it did not receive a recognition from the international community, it ignited similar processes in other countries such as Italy, France, and Belgium.
Experts also predict a high possibility of so-called Eurosceptic parties getting more seats in the European Parliament in 2019. In the same year, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Greece, Portuguese, and Poland will hold parliamentary elections, too. According to the preliminary polls, the popularity of the right is growing.
Failure of multiculturalism
A deepening migration crisis in Europe not only changes its ethnic composition but also its political landscape, where conservatism is viewed as the only reasonable countermeasure against the inefficient policies of the European Union.
It’s no surprise: Conservatives have been strengthening their positions for nearly 30 years, and the topic of migration has always been a central one. It is significant that the right-wing parties have started to gain their mass popularity in 1980s, when the EU started to adopt a policy of multiculturalism. It was intended to preserve a cultural and religious identity of immigrants from the former European colonies in Africa and Caribbean, and, eventually, from the Middle East. Multiculturalism was supposed to promote mutual enrichment of the different cultures, ensuring their harmonious coexistence and mutual respect.
But it turned out that the numerous newcomers did not want to assimilate and tended to group together, often neglecting to embrace traditions and even laws of the host countries, whose population welcomed them most warmly. This included, among other things, generous welfare support of the immigrants. Eventually, European leaders, including German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and former British Prime Minister David Cameron, have acknowledged the failures of multiculturalism and of a “passive tolerance.” But, despite their remorseful remarks, the policy continues to dominate.
The migration crisis of 2015, when nearly 1 million refugees from war-ravaged countries in the Middle East and Africa flooded Europe, has once again exposed an impotency of neoliberal ideologists and powers to offer any effective mechanisms to not only defend traditional cultural and national identity of native Europeans but their physical safety as well. A wave of terrorist attacks conducted by newcomers in the following years who were either connected to ISIS or inspired by its ideas, have terrified ordinary Europeans.
During recent decades, political conservatism in “old,” Western Europe has bonded with liberalism so closely that they became almost identical. Traditional conservative values are generally stigmatized as “radical,” and labeled as Nazi and fascist, as they pose a fundamental threat to the existing policies of Brussels.
For instance, “radical,” or true, conservative parties challenge the current migration policy of “open-door,” demanding it to be substituted with merit-based principles. Thus, they decline to exploit European sense of guilt for colonialism and fascism any longer. Modern conservatives point out the dangers of an ongoing all-inclusive migration. It is not a moral opposition, but a pragmatic one. But as it has a distinctive traditionalist aspect, it inevitably appeals to traditional values and resonates with a growing discomfort of many Europeans.
Simultaneously, many new EU members feel disappointed because of the economic failures of the EU, whose economy has been stalled since the 2008 recession. Once started as a free trade area and a customs union, over time it became a centralized and overregulated supranational entity that is governed by highly bureaucratic Brussels.
Ironically, a mismanagement of mass immigration was a part of the issue of the EU’s economic troubles. Much of it is rooted in government policies such as extensive welfare provisions mentioned earlier, and labor-market restrictions that keep immigrants out of the workforce. The failure of Europe’s immigration policy has allowed for a large influx of foreigners whom Brussels is now trying to forcefully “redistribute” among the member states, has succeeded in awakening an epic level of resentment.
Behind the growing popularity of the right-wing parties in Europe, a careful observer may see an end of the dominance of the political discourse that was based on condemnation of the ideology of Axis powers after the World War II — and it is not a reincarnation of Fascism or Nazism. With a generalized condemnation of a conservatism, Europe marginalized some traditional values that constituted a very core of its unique civilization entity.
Eventually, it led to a strong bias towards liberalism and leftism. As they were not properly balanced by a healthy right opposition, Europe turned out as a space of a peculiar mono-ideological experiment, resembling one in the Soviet Union.
The positions of neoliberalism, however, are still strong in the core countries of the EU. Thus, the most accurate prediction regarding a European political landscape would be a further ideological fragmentation of the EU, divided on a neoliberal segment with its major hubs in Brussels, Paris, and Berlin, and their eventual Islamization, and a growing resistance of the conservative powers in Central and Eastern Europe.