Are we seeing a Europe right-wing shift? Lets’s study what’s happening in the Europe political landscape!

“Europe is my home. Europe is my continent. Europe is where we live. The European Union is a political bureaucratic organization that took away our identity and our national sovereignty. So, I would get rid of the European Union and be a nation-state again”

By Greet Wilders, PM of the Netherlands

Current Political Landscape European Countries

Greet Wilders is a right-wing leader who won the election in the Netherlands this year. His election manifesto included several policies that directly sit in conflict with the left-leaning policies of the European Union. However, he is not the only right-wing politician elected in EU countries in recent years. Observations of Europe’s political landscape shows that there has been a gradual emergence of several right wing parties in the EU member countries.

  • In Italy, Prime Minister Georgia Meloni took office in October of 2022 and belongs to the right-wing party Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia). She is known for her conservative views and advocacy for national sovereignty and traditional values, advocating for patriotism, free-market policies and a strong stance on immigration and law enforcement.
  • Finland shifted to a right-wing government with Prime Minister Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition Party in June of 2023. His party is a center-right political party in Finland, advocating for economic liberalism and pro-European policies in Finish politics.
  • In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a centre-right leader, in June 2023 secured a significant election win. 
  • Spain is poised to turn right-wing with the likely win of the People’s Party (PP) in upcoming elections. 
  • Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right party entered the German federal parliament for the first time in 2017 and has since become the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag. The Eurosceptic political party was founded in 2013 and has gained attention for its anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and anti-establishment stances. The party has positioned itself against what it perceives as the dominant influence of the European Union, advocating for more national sovereignty.
  • The Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) is a right-wing populist political party that was founded in the late 1980s and has gained significant attention and support in Swedish politics becoming the second-largest party in the Swedish parliament. The party’s platform has historically focused on immigration restrictions, advocating for stricter immigration policies and reducing the number of refugees and immigrants coming to Sweden. They have also addressed concerns about crime rates, welfare and the preservation of Swedish cultural identity.

Europe Right-Wing Shift – Myth or Truth Consensus

This comes as a surprise to some as the European Union has in past decades unanimously adopted liberal, left-leaning policies and these governments stand to challenge those policies. So, what is the consensus regarding this right shift amongst the people? If we observe the mainstream left, the media single-handedly portrays this Europe right-wing shift as the Populist movement.

So, what is Populism?

Populism is a political approach or ideology that seeks to appeal to the interests and concerns of ordinary people, often by presenting themselves as champions against established elites or a perceived corrupt establishment. Though there isn’t a single, universally agreed-upon definition of populism, as it can manifest in various forms across different countries and contexts, there are some identifying features such as Anti-establishment rhetoric, Appeal to emotion, Simplification of complex issues and Us vs Them dichotomy.  According to Partys’ aligned with European union agendas, right wing movement seems completely driven by Anti-migration, Islamophobia and extreme radicalism.

Left-Wing’s Blissful Ignorance

This mindset however is far from the truth and may be one of the reasons that gave birth to this movement. For example, in the Netherlands, the harsh climate mandates hampered the farming practices, ultimately plummeting their economic condition into the ground. When farmers protested they were dismissed as foolish, uneducated and climate change deniers. This resulted in the rise of Greet Wilders. Yet, the election result of this election has been mindlessly categorised into Islamophobia and Right radicalism. Thus, understanding the actual reasons behind this wave becomes extremely important. Let’s then try to understand the factors that are driving the Europe right-wing shift.

Economic Mismanagements

Europe in recent years has witnessed a worrying slowdown. The statistics reflect that growth has shrunk to a meagre 0.7% for advanced European economies, a stark contrast to the 3.6% just a year ago. Industrial production is contracting for months on end. The spectre of unemployment, though not yet widespread, stalks some countries, with Spain’s jobless rate rising above 13%. With energy prices spiralling upwards due to the Ukrainian conflict, the Eurozone inflation rate has reached a scorching 10.7%, eroding purchasing power and leaving people scrambling to afford necessities. The global economic slowdown due to COVID-19 has dampened European exports and trade, further squeezing the life out of growth. Within Europe itself, structural issues like rigid labour markets and high public debt have also hindered economic progress. The cost-of-living crisis, which is the result of soaring inflation, is forcing families to cut back on essential expenses. 

Failing Immigration Policies

Europe adopted very forgiving immigration policies in the Merkel era that enabled mass immigration, especially from the Middle East and Africa. After decades the brunt of those policies is being felt by the common people. The influx of thousands of illegal migrants put a heavy strain on the continent’s economy. The housing crisis, the collapse of welfare schemes and low literacy rates are some of the side effects. Along with the hardworking aspirational population, it also gave free leeway to a radical and antisocial fraction, ultimately increasing gang crimes, violence against women and riots. Statistics show that 86% of criminal gang members in Norway have an immigration background. Immigrants account for the highest rape crimes in Scandinavian countries. According to a report of the IICSA, which was quoted by the then UK home secretary, 90% of abuse to girls under the legal age, is done by Pakistani grooming gangs in the UK. France which has the largest migrant population shows the highest amount of radicalisation in its Prisons and Mosques. Year after year the country faces some of the most violent terrorist attacks and violent riots, which has escalated due to widespread radicalisation. These incidents and reports were brushed off and labelled as isolated incidents with misleading statistics.

Nonetheless, unprecedented agony suffered by people has led to a shift in selection of a party which is more nationalist.

Harsh Climate Mandates

Europe, once a lauded leader in climate action, finds itself caught in a thorny bind. Its ambitious green policies, fuelled by a burning desire to combat climate change, have inadvertently ignited a wave of resentment and resistance. While the science behind climate action is undeniable, Europe’s approach has been plagued by a disconnect between lofty goals and the lived realities of its citizens. Harsh energy costs, a direct consequence of Europe’s rapid embrace of renewables and carbon pricing, have bitten deep into household budgets, particularly for low-income families. Industries dependent on fossil fuels have watched jobs evaporate, breeding economic anxiety and fuelling anti-climate sentiments. The green transition, while necessary, has felt like a burden borne by many, while the benefits seem distant and abstract. This perception of overreach and inflexibility has eroded trust and created a sense of being unheard, further widening the chasm between policymakers and the communities. Green solutions, often urban-centric, have felt like an imposition on rural communities, leaving them feeling forgotten and disregarded in the race towards sustainability. 

Right vs Left Wing Ideology

The right-wing party, positioned as a national entity, places a paramount focus on the tangible benefits and grassroots concerns of the common citizens. They advocate for policies geared towards the well-being of the general population, emphasizing economic prosperity, national security and community welfare. With a commitment to addressing the immediate needs of everyday people, they strive to create a socio-political landscape that resonates with the aspirations of the broader populace. In their approach, the right-wing party seeks to foster a sense of national unity and upliftment, channeling their efforts towards practical solutions for the betterment of the common man.

The left-wing ideology, while historically rooted in commendable ideals, must adapt and evolve in response to the changing dynamics of our times. Rather than remaining fixated on traditional beliefs and agendas influenced by other nations, the left wing should consider a more pragmatic and progressive approach. It is imperative that they refrain from unwarranted criticism of right-wing parties, particularly in the context of accusations related to radicalization, anti-Muslim sentiments and anti-immigration stances. Instead, the left wing should prioritize a nationalistic perspective, placing the interests of the nation above divisive rhetoric. By reorienting their focus towards constructive policies and collaborative efforts. If we prioritize the significance of actions, one could argue that the right wings are correct in their stance, leaving the left wings on the sidelines. 

Verdict in Europe Right-Wing Shift

In essence, actions become the defining factor in determining the validity and effectiveness of political ideologies. Open and honest dialogue, investments in communities and a renewed commitment to social justice and nation building are crucial to strengthen public support. The distinction between right and left is essentially meaningless rhetoric, devoid of concrete ideologies. These labels lack clear and defined principles, with the real substance lying in the actions and policies that parties or individuals undertake. In essence, the political spectrum is not defined by mere labels but by the tangible actions and policies that shape the course of governance.