The past decade has seen the ascendance of several far-right political parties across Europe. These groups—many of which have been roundly criticized for their antisemitic, islamophobic, xenophobic, and/or racist rhetoric and policy proposals—have seen huge gains in recent European Parliament and national elections.
Far-right parties in Europe have had a mixed track record. Marine Le Pen’s National Front won six regions in the first round of regional elections last December, only to win none in the second round after the coordinated efforts of the Socialist and Republican parties ; the party has seen an increase in electoral support over the past eight years as Le Pen works to soften her party’s image. In Hungary, the racist Jobbik Party won a parliamentary district for the first time in April 2015, establishing itself as the second strongest party in that country. Greece’s virulently antisemitic Golden Dawn remains a potent political force, continuing to win parliamentary seats despite its entire leadership being on trial for racist and politically motived murders and other violent attacks.
In June, far-right parties in the European Parliament announced the formation of a political group called the Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENL) Group under the leadership of France’s National Front. Establishing such a group—which gives the parties more staff, access to E.U. funds (at least 3 million Euros per year) and the right to initiate certain activities—requires at least 25 members from seven nations. In addition to the National Front, the ENL includes members from the Dutch Party for Freedom, Austria’s Freedom Party, Italy’s Northern League, the Belgian Flemish Interest Party, Poland’s Congress of the New Right and the United Romania Party, as well as a former member of Britain’s UKIP party.
Human Rights First is concerned that the ascent of extremist parties will corrode respect for the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights, and protection of minorities on which the European Union was founded, and the Trans-Atlantic Alliance is based. The U.S. government should take into account the political clout of parties like Jobbik, the National Front, and Golden Dawn in its strategy to combat antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and related human rights abuses in their respective countries. These groups also receive support from and have promoted closer ties with Russia, for instance by voting against a European Parliament resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Crimea.