A headache for European liberals: ‘Hard-right’ parties are on the march to European Parliament

12:38 02.04.2024 •

A Conference of leaders of European right-way populists in Madrid.
Photo: AFP

Ukraine is facing a fresh existential threat this summer – not from Russia, but from Europe. A small but significant and highly vocal bloc of hard-Right parties are on the march across the Continent and are set to perform strongly in June’s European Parliament elections, notes ‘The Telegraph’.

They have posted record results in Portugal and the Netherlands or are already in government in places such as Hungary, Finland and Italy. They are poised to win looming national elections in Austria and Belgium or win European elections in France and Poland.

And many of them think Europe should no longer supply weapons and aid to Ukraine.

Some even want Europe to appease Vladimir Putin, end sanctions against Russia and push Ukraine into peace talks.

On their own, parties such as the German Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Hungary’s Fidesz and the Freedom Party of Austria have little geopolitical heft, but together they can wield vetoes on EU foreign policy decisions.

Some experts suggest they could form the third-largest bloc of parties in Brussels and Strasbourg, the two seats of the European Parliament.

At the top of the pro-Kremlin pack is Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister. Even more worryingly for Kyiv and those who back it, Mr Orban has built a strong alliance with Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner.

Mr Trump has threatened to halt what he calls the “endless flow of American treasure” to Ukraine if he wins the White House in November.

As Ukraine’s biggest weapons donor, even with $60 billion (£47.5 billion) of military aid frozen in Congress, the end of the US’s support would be game-changing.

To replace it, Europe would have to double its current level and pace of arms assistance, the Kiel Institute in Germany said.

But Europe’s aid to Ukraine is technically even bigger – and many on the hard Right want to put a stop to it.

The EU as a whole has outstripped the US on aid, although only €77 billion (£66 billion) of the €144 billion (£123 billion) committed has been allocated and most of that is financial, rather than military.

Mr Orban agrees with Mr Trump. After a recent dinner with the US politician at his Mar-a-Lago residence, he declared he would not send “one more penny” to Ukraine.

He is now inspiring other European leaders to take a similar stance.

The expected success of the hard Right has raised speculation that Ursula von der Leyen’s centre-Right European People’s Party could be tempted to forge a broad conservative coalition with more moderate parties to shut the Left out of power.

For Maximilian Krah, the lead European elections candidate for Germany’s AfD, this split is getting in the way of a major shift in European politics.

Mr Krah claims that traditional conservative parties are now adopting critical views of immigration and net zero championed by parties such as his.

“The Left is losing because it has no proper answers to the challenges of our time,” he said.

“The climate voodoo destroys the welfare of the middle class and immigration destroys Europe culturally and demographically.”

However, the issue of Ukraine stands in the way of a broader Right-wing coalition.

Mr Krah added: “There is one major topic that is dividing us and this is foreign policy.

“You have the very much pro-transatlantic, anti-Russian approach with the Right that would like to be in Ukraine and is preparing a war in Taiwan.

“On the other hand, you have parties like AfD, which believes that the Western dominance of the world is over, that the future will be much more shaped by the Global South, and that it’s time to rethink foreign policy. It is the only issue that divides us.”

Those on the Right hope that such differences can be put aside to form a super bloc that can advance an agenda they feel is long overdue.

“Consolidation and the formation of alliances of European conservatives are essential to stopping harmful changes in the European Union,” Mr Błaszczak, Poland’s PiS chairman, said.

Mr Bardella, the head of National Rally and lead candidate in the European elections, echoed that view.

He told The Telegraph that Europe had changed with the rise of the Right.

“We have the opportunity to create this blocking minority in the European Parliament,” he said. “The cards are completely reshuffled.”


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