Why the EU is facing a far-right fightback

Parties from 15 member states combine to challenge Brussels ‘superstate’

Viktor Orban and Matteo Salvini pictured in 2018
Viktor Orban and Matteo Salvini pictured in 2018
(Image credit: Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images)

Nationalist leaders from across Europe have fired a warning shot at the EU by forming an alliance that aims to bolster national sovereignty and prevent the emergence of a “European superstate”.

In a joint declaration, 16 parties from 15 member states have accused Brussels of “stripping nations of the right to exercise their legitimate sovereign powers”. The bloc “is becoming more and more a tool of radical forces that would like to carry out a cultural, religious transformation and ultimately a nationless construction of Europe”, claims the group, which unites some of Europe’s leading populist politicians.

The call to arms warns that nations must resist a “dangerous tendency to impose an ideological monopoly” that will “destroy or cancel European tradition” in order to “create a European superstate”.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

As The Times notes, Europe’s far-right have traditionally “been divided between two separate groups in Brussels and riven with ideological disagreements”. However, ongoing talks on how to reform the EU “appear to have galvanised resistance and prompted the parties to set aside their differences”, says the newspaper.

The newly formed alliance brings together leaders including Matteo Salvini of Italy’s hard-right League party and Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally, as well as Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The signatories also include Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party, the Spanish right-wing party Vox and the Austrian Freedom Party.

But “several significant right-wing parties were missing from the declaration”, adds The Times, with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom conspicuously absent.

Those who have signed up “emphasise that the document is a response to the beginning of the debate on the future of Europe”, reports Euractiv. The declaration singles out EU institutions including the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, “which have put pressure on Poland and Hungary on issues ranging from subjugating the judiciary to stigmatising the LGBT community”, the Brussels-based news site adds.

The declaration says that “the cooperation of European nations should be based on tradition, respect for the culture and history of European states, respect for Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage and the common values that unite our nations, and not on their destruction”.

“The moralistic overactivity that we have seen in recent years in the EU institutions has resulted in a dangerous tendency to impose an ideological monopoly,” the nationalist leaders continue.

The declaration has been signed by 116 of the European Parliament’s 705 MEPs and has “lent impetus to Orban’s efforts to combine the factions into what would be one of the largest forces” in the chamber, says The Times.

The Hungarian PM’s Fidez party was recently ejected from the parliament’s mainstream centre-right block of parties, but he “now aims to become the nucleus of a heavyweight populist rival”, the paper reports.

Former European Council president Donald Tusk has spoken out against what he described as the group of “new friends” who share a sense that “Putin’s Russia is closer to their hearts than the EU”.

After being elected head of Poland’s largest opposition party, Civic Platform, on Saturday, former PM Tusk told reporters that the involvement of his country’s ruling PiS in the alliance was a step towards “complete isolation”.

“Really the only person who, after something like this, opens another champagne after PiS’s decisions is Putin in the Kremlin,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) - the second-largest group in the European Parliament - described the newly formed group as the “extreme right”.

Warning that the parties in the pact have “a twisted vision of patriotism”, S&D leader Iratxe Garcia Perez said: “It excludes anyone who doesn’t think like them, and that is a clear threat to Europe.

“Nationalism led to World War Two. The EU not only brought peace, but it allows us to face problems together - the recovery plan to overcome the crisis, a strategy to vaccinate all Europeans, free movement and having a voice in the world.”

On the other side of the argument, the nationalists’ declaration says that the EU should create a “set of inviolable competences of the European Union’s member states, and an appropriate mechanism for their protection with the participation of national constitutional courts or equivalent bodies”.

“All attempts to transform European institutions into bodies that take precedence over national constitutional institutions create chaos”, add the far-right leaders, who claim that such reform “destroys the basis for the functioning of the European community as a community of free nations”.

A conference of signatories of the letter is planned for September in Warsaw. The European far-right has previously failed to unite under a single banner, however.

Only time will tell whether the populists “will be able to overcome their historical divisions and act as a politically cogent unit” this time round, says The Times.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Joe Evans is the world news editor at TheWeek.co.uk. He joined the team in 2019 and held roles including deputy news editor and acting news editor before moving into his current position in early 2021. He is a regular panellist on The Week Unwrapped podcast, discussing politics and foreign affairs. 

Before joining The Week, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the UK and Ireland for German newspapers and magazines. A series of features on Brexit and the Irish border got him nominated for the Hostwriter Prize in 2019. Prior to settling down in London, he lived and worked in Cambodia, where he ran communications for a non-governmental organisation and worked as a journalist covering Southeast Asia. He has a master’s degree in journalism from City, University of London, and before that studied English Literature at the University of Manchester.