Economy to accountability: Experts lay out reasons for rise of far-right in Europe

European left needs to reinvent its ideology to stay relevant among working classes, Greek political scientist Filippa Chatzistavrou tells Anadolu

Ahmet Gencturk  | 01.03.2024 - Update : 04.03.2024
Economy to accountability: Experts lay out reasons for rise of far-right in Europe Around 200 fascist sympathizers gather in front of the Madrid cemetery on Monday to a give a symbolic welcome to the exhumed remains of Spanish fascist leader Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera in Madrid, Spain on April 24, 2023

- European left needs to reinvent its ideology to stay relevant among working classes, Greek political scientist Filippa Chatzistavrou tells Anadolu  

- Far-right groups exploiting widening gap between common people and establishment parties, according to Italian expert Valeria Giannotta 


Europe’s declining economy, eroding class representation, and a lack of accountability of the EU are spurring the rise of the far-right and the increasing number of countries being governed by populist governments across the continent, according to experts.

Though there are multiple factors, the economic situation has a central role in Europe’s far-right surge, said Filippa Chatzistavrou, professor of political science at the University of Athens.

There is increasing discontent with neo-liberal economic policies that have significantly slashed the purchasing power of the working and middle classes and weakened the social welfare state, she told Anadolu.

She said this social dislocation has not been addressed by left-wing parties, making the far-right more appealing to a growing number of people.

Chatzistavrou said this is not the first time that Europe has witnessed a rise in the popularity of the far-right, but the current wave differs from previous ones in a particularly dangerous way.

“That is the far-right constituency has expanded beyond just the working class and rural populations to include some upper classes and young people, posing new risks,” she said.

“Realizing that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy benefits of the generous welfare state and high purchasing power, unlike their parents and grandparents, youth in the Nordic countries, for example, are turning to far-right and populist parties.”

As to the link between the decline of class-based left-wing politics and the resurgence of far-right parties, she said the left’s inability to address problems such as the falling socioeconomic status of the working and middle classes has considerably contributed to the current state of affairs.

“Having said that, it is important to understand the economic, technological, sociological, and demographical conditions are different than in the past, which facilitated strong left-wing politics. Consequently, the left must reinvent its ideology to stay relevant,” Chatzistavrou added.

‘EU is not representing needs of all’

The rise of the far-right in Europe is also linked to growing frustration among common people over the EU, particularly in the face of challenges such as migration, cost of living crises and foreign policy issues, according to Italian expert Valeria Giannotta.

“The EU, in its present form, is not representing the needs and interests of all its member states,” Giannotta, scientific director of Rome-based think tank CeSPI’s Observatory on Türkiye, told Anadolu.

“It is rather representing a small fraction, which is basically northern European countries. Therefore, increasing annoyance among common people is channeled to the far-right or populist parties.”

For instance, certain members who insist on enforcing the European Green Deal in the strictest terms, without caring about its potential economic and social costs for other countries, turn a deaf ear when asked to share the burden of irregular migration, she said.

In this situation, the far-right came to exploit a crisis exacerbated by center-left parties that have increasingly aligned with Brussels’ institutions and bureaucrats, while ignoring the common people, she explained.

Giannotta argued that the growing far-right threat could finally force establishment parties – mostly social-democratic and socialist parties – to reconsider their policies and focus on more concrete and urgent problems, such as declining economic power and irregular migration, instead of rhetoric.

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