001Major EU state elects neo-fascist leader

Blue sky Policy Alert 001

FP7 themes health agro ict nano energy environment transport ssh space security
ERA goals mobility infrastucture rtd institutions knowledge sharing  joint programming  cooperation 
Author(s)Ian Miles, Joe Ravetz, Rafael Popper, Thordis Sveinsdottir, Yanuar Nugroho
Contributor(s)Julia De-Clerk, Dalina Dumitrescu, Gabriele Griffin, Dirk Johann, Javier Medina, Konrad Miciukiewicz
ManifestationGradual development
Potential impacts in Europe
infrastructures
Negligible
people's lives
Major
legislation & regulation
Major
economy & business
Moderate
defence & security
Major
government & politics
environment & ecosystems
Negligible
science & technology
Negligible
Importance for EUMajor
Strategic attentionby 2030 Major  by 2050 Moderate
Type of impactVery negative
Inspired byEC research on Social Sciences and Humanities (Conflicts, peace and human rights)
Related toFP7 projects: CRIC, INFOCON
Keywords, , , , , , ,
 

 

Wild card

Current socio-economic challenges in Europe (such as demographic pressures and growing unemployment) are creating the conditions for far-right parties to make major gains in the European political arena. Security fears associated with militant Islamism fuel distrust and suspicion about specific ethnic and religious minorities. These developments could eventually create the conditions for a major EU state electing a neo fascist leader.

 

 

Surprises ("wild" scenario features)

The existence of political parties with far-right agendas is not a new feature in European politics. What is really ‘wild’ or surprising in this event is the achievement of sufficient political momentum for a major EU state to elect a neo fascist leader, bringing these movements from the fringe to the centre of politics, and potentially fuelling other far-right parties in Europe and possibly globally. Extreme nationalist feelings could destabilise European political and economic co-operation, while racism and authoritarian practices could undermine fundamental European values and ideals such as the need for social cohesion and social inclusion.

It remains to be seen whether far right movements across Europe could co-operate on matters other than those involving common enemies. The result would be a climate of uncertainty and lack of consensus on the democratic constitution of European societies. An atmosphere of extremist philosophy, harsh policy and political intolerance could possibly lead to the differentiation between first, second and third class citizens.

 

Possible interpretations

There are different readings of such a wild card, for example: the failure of mainstream politicians to respond effectively to current challenges and to engage with shifting populations; the growing power of communicational platforms (e.g. social networks, Internet, tabloid press) making it possible for political narratives of far-right to prevail and gain momentum; the success of some far-right political parties in targeting and promising the ‘rule of the young’, the growing need for redistribution of resources, political and economic power, among others. Another possibility is the emergence of coalitions founded very much on the notion of threat from alien enemies – at present, Islamists are the prime candidates, but European neighbours could find themselves targets (e.g. consider the claims of some Greeks about German superiority and enmity).

 

Key actors

Key actors related to this wild card, include:
  • Scanners or "early warners" such as social and political scientists like the Extreme Right Electorates and Party Success Research Group (EREPS) and investigative journalists;
  • Shapers (i.e. enablers/inhibitors) such as the education system, mainstream political parties (potentially entering into coalition with the far right, and/or adopting similar policies and programmes), right wing populists, social movements, youth organisations, (trans)national civil society organisations (e.g. Human Rights Watch), and the media;
  • Stakeholders positively or negatively impacted include such as national governments, civil society, NGOs promoting human rights and minority welfare, the police and law enforcement agencies, among others.

 

Potential impacts

The impacts of a major EU state electing a neo fascist leader could include: the rise in xenophobia and fears (and associated responses) on the part of minorities and affected groups such as women; the European Union turning inwards (i.e. reducing trade and cooperation with Asia and other regions, including North America); the rethinking of many human rights, including the right for political asylum, in Europe; the development of a “strong state” with punitive policies in social welfare, schools, the justice system, etc.; the intensification of discrimination and lack of tolerance nationally and regionally; the development of national oriented politics; the loss of credibility in the democratic system; the rise of new forms of resistance (including wars), for example.

 

Potential actions

A neo fascist government in Europe would probably lead to new legislation (criminalising some activities now legal, for example), intensive media campaigns proposing “new” welfare solutions, the rise of groups defending basic human values and, at the same time, an increased number of extremists on all sides promoting conflicts and social polarisation. For that reason, a number of early actions (pre-wild card) and early reactions (if the wild card occurs) should be considered:

  • Policy actions

    Early actions: To make far-right movements more visible (e.g. including lessons from history in education); To reduce social polarisation in education; To enhance democratic participation and consensus building practices; To provide real and practical solutions to problems such as poverty and inequality; To promote community integration programmes;

    Early reactions: To avoid radical changes in legislation; To avoid drastic changes in police and law enforcement policies; To defend minorities law; To use soft power to negotiate with far-right regimes; To concentrate power within government alliances; To welcome the displaced and dispossessed.

  • Business actions

    Early actions: To promote corporate social responsibility; To use business power to promote equality and human rights; To make sure equality and human rights are respected in the workplace; To research into integration models.

    Early reactions: To continue promoting the above and making sure that that racist/neo-fascist discourses do not dictate their practices; To continue trade with countries outside of EU.

  • Research actions

    Early actions: To promote research on mass media, political discourse and electoral census analysis; To increase research on the current and future effects of migration; To research the roots of far-right wing support and, in contrast, or openness and tolerance and how they may be fostered; To review lessons of authoritarian personalities; To identify and analyse social mechanisms hampering democracy; To explore new ways of addressing inequalities and delivering social change;

    Early reactions: Continued research focus on the issues named above. Research community would need to continue presenting research findings that would promote understanding of immigration, inequalities, multiculturalism, tolerance and human rights.

 

Weak signals

There are several signals warning us about the probability of occurrence of such a wild card. Some of these are related to the political environment, for example: the domination of right wing parties in the last elections to the European parliament; the break away from mainstream parties to the far right; the political momentum gained by the recently created Alliance of European National Movements (AENM), which up to now brings together far-right parties in nine countries (Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the UK); and the power gained by farright parties in recent elections in terms of new Members of the European Parliament (MEP) with 3 MEPs for the French National Front (FN), 3 for the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) and 2 for the British National Party (BNP). Distrust in, and disaffection with, established political parties and elites is a major contributory factor, and is associated with a more general distrust of many experts and their claims – e.g. about climate change. Intimately linked to these political signals, we can see major achievements in terms of media coverage (e.g. the BNP leader was able to reach more people after his appearance in BBC's main current-affairs debate programme Question Time) and the growing number of alternative media, blogs, tabloid press and newspapers endorsing some farright policies and politicians. Among the socio-economic signals, we can include: the popular backlash against the spread of globalisation; the shift back to nationalism across the EU, which in some countries translates into resentment of outsiders and Islamophobia; the growing concerns about large and uncontrolled population movements (e.g. migration and refugee situations); and the negative impacts of the financial crises (e.g. reduction of public and private investment, loss of jobs, increase of poverty and revival of historical controversies polarising society).

Disclaimer: The wild card presented in this brief may not happen at all or in the near future. iKNOW is a new EU funded research project aimed to explore surprising events (wild cards) and emerging issues (weak signals) potentially shaping or shaking the future of Europe and the world.
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