Sorry to ruin your day, but I’ve got some bad news. The next 11 months looks set to be another bleak year for the Eurozone economy with the continent’s economic peril more likely to worsened in the coming months than improve.
The news is a bitter blow to the European people, with now over 25 million in the continent put out of work since the crisis began. 2013 then will be not be a year of prosperity, but more austerity.
For many, this has set off alarm bells. There is a growing fear that Europe’s democracies are straining under the weight of its economically-vulnerable populations; and that another year of the economic downturn – and severe austerity measures – will be enough time to allow Europe’s growing far-right parties to truly break away from the periphery into the political mainstream.
None more so than Greece’s Golden Dawn who, in June, became Europe’s biggest far-right party, winning 18 seats in the Greek Parliament. The Hellenic Republic is far from alone however; Finland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Spain and France has seen substantial rise in support in the extreme right. Even parts of Britain flirted with idea with the election of two BNP MEPS in 2009. With creeping inflation, low growth and high unemployment, Europe has been portrayed as ripe for fascist picking.
Not so. While such support is undoubtedly troubling – as any parties with anti-immigrant, fascist, racist or Neo-Nazi agenda would be – Europe is far from a right-wing uprising. It is merely the growth of populism – the standard response to economic crises.
Indeed, let’s put a bit of content into it. Golden Dawn’s 18 seats were won with a minuscule percentage of 6.9% of the vote. This is despite the fact that Greece’s meltdown has been more severe in scale and duration than that of 1930s Germany. In fact, there was more a turn towards the left-wing Syriza party, who are now the major opposition party in the Greek government.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s Front National may have gained nearly one-in-five of votes in the 2012 elections, but her party still failed to make the second round of the election while Le Pen didn’t even win a seat. Elsewhere, Spain’s Espana 200 may be growing, but it still remains outside of national representation; whilst in the Northern European countries, the right-wing parties growth is based on Euro-scepticism more than xenophobia.
The belief that right-wing rhetoric will gain significant traction within the continent – based on the fact it did nearly 80 years ago – is wrong. It not only simplifies the unique historic situation of the 1930s and The Great Depression, but that of Europe today.
The threat of the extreme-right-has been thus been overstated. Certainly, it not by mere coincidence that the countries where the largest threat of extremism is in that of Greece and Spain, where the unemployment rate is ranked in the high twenty percentages, but the analogy of recession becoming extremism is far too easy. The belief that right-wing rhetoric will gain significant traction within the continent – based on the fact it did nearly 80 years ago – is thus wrong. It not only simplifies the unique historic situation of the 1930s and The Great Depression, but that of Europe today.
One thing’s for sure however; Europe will continue to face its most severe crisis since the organisation’s inception over a century ago. Will it face far-right challenges? Of course, but for now, they remain periphery murmurs in the background. Fix the European economy and most will shrink back into oblivion.