The Rise of the Right in Europe and the Decline and Fall of Practically Everything Else

Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Place of publication
Brussels, Belgium
Date of Publication
October 2015
Number of Pages
Language of publication

Sixteen months have gone by since the last election to the European Parliament; twelve months since the new European Commission, the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security and the new European Council President took up their duties. So far it has been a bumpy ride for the new parliamentarians and leaders of Europe. The eurozone crisis has developed into an ongoing thriller whose likely ending, a Grexit, keeps being postponed by breath-taking and unexpected plot developments; the conflict in Ukraine in the eastern neighbourhood of the European Union keeps deteriorating and the migration and refugee crisis originating in the EU’s southern neighbourhood has reached dramatic proportions. The European Union hasn’t looked very good in its attempts to solve any of these major crises to put it mildly: its actions either came too late or nothing happened at all; they didn’t go far enough or went in the wrong direction. In short, Europe demonstrated a worrying lack of insight, solidarity and leadership. In the meantime Euroscepticism, right-wing populism and extremism have profited from the general inertness and lack of leadership: In the European Parliament where Marine Le Pen managed in adding a second extreme right-wing group to the fragmented political spectrum; in recent national elections and opinion polls where right-wing parties did shockingly well (e.g. in Denmark, Sweden, Italy and France); in the streets where they have mobilised against migrants and Roma (e.g. in Germany and Hungary) and even on government level (e.g. Hungary and Slovakia). Europe is in dire need of leadership, ambition and more cooperation, but instead its leaders seem to turn against each other in a desperate attempt to gain domestic popularity. Is there a chance that EU leaders refocus on the values the Union was built on and take urgent action before the European project disintegrates into complete chaos?