Op-Ed: The Future of Europe
Recently, former Prime-Minister of Luxemburg Jean Claude Juncker, selected by the European Central Conservatives as their candidate for the future President of the European Commission after the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, made a public statement on what - in his view - is the major issue for Europe these days: “We have to stop the ultra-right movements, with their ideology and practices, their xenophobia, from becoming the leading force in Europe. If that would happen, the continent will change its face”, said Mr Juncker with palpable determination and concern.
The reasons for Mr Juncker’s and many others’ concern are gravely serious: according to the March 2014 pan-European poll, 45% of European voters intend to vote for populist parties (Euronews, 07.03.2014). The group includes both mild populists and numerous ultra-right parties in many European countries, and the tendency has become the most serious danger for the future of Europeans since the end of WWII.
What is regarded by historians as ‘the third wave’ of pro-Nazi movements, after the original one in 1930s, and the second one in 1980s, differs from the two previous waves in its broad and efficient international co-operation between the ultra-right movements. In the elections in May 2014, this co-ordination may become the key-factor allowing the pan-European ultra-right to achieve an unprecedented gain, and change the face of Europe into a murky shape.
It is important to realize that there are at least three major categories in the large part of the political spectrum termed ‘populist’ in Europe today: conventional populist parties; mild nationalistic ones; and openly pro-Nazi ultra-right movements.
It is factually wrong and intellectually lazy to melt all of them in the same pot. Nevertheless, the most worrisome phenomenon of today is that many of those parties have agreed to run in co-ordination during the coming European elections in May 2014, and, as the result of such tactical move, observers are expecting to seeing more of openly neo-Nazi parties and personalities in the new European Parliament for the term of 2014-2019.
These changes, if they occur, will have a very threatening and long-standing effect on Europe as we know it. The number of the active, notable and successful ultra-right parties in Europe today is over a dozen. The situation is remarkably similar to the early 1930s.
The realities of the current pre-electoral Europe show four most problematic phenomena: a sharp rise of ultra-right movements; shameful meekness on the part of the authorities who allow their activities; and efficient and continuing for several years by now, international co-operation of the ultra-right; and absence of an articulate and powerful stand against rising and spreading neo-Nazi ideology among European intellectuals, in the media and in public opinion in general.
‘Democracy’ does not mean ‘hate’; and it is weird to explain that amid the many commemorations of the extermination of Jews and all the victims of the Holocaust in Europe which are taking place all over this year.
One day after another, we see another major ultra-right rally in Bulgaria; we hear repeated statements from the stage of the Hungarian parliament that “Jews are the threat to the country’s national security” and that “all Jews in the country have to be registered”; we are learning that the Golden Dew in Greece is still the country’s the third most popular party despite its violent activities, and despite some minor counter-measures against it by the authorities who were forced to do something mainly because the country was then entering into rotating presidency of the EU for the first half of 2014.
Rarely, we are hearing concerns from the European Parliament leadership expressed with regard to Hungary and Greece on the issue. But one need not be Einstein to realize that public reprimand is not an instrument but an indication of implementing a policy. The huge machinery of the EU was quite capable of producing a clear mechanism preventing the rise of the ultra-right movements and their activities. It was not done, and the void of healthy reaction has been rapidly filled with the aggressive stand propagating hatred and violence.
We also are seeing the European Parliament embracing the new Ukrainian authorities, which include the representatives of two strong ultra-right movements, Freedom and The Right Sector, without articulate and firm apprehension of those forces.
In this respect, the German and American press (Der Speigel, Die Zeit, The Washington Post) is writing more and more on the issue being alarmed and worried by such discriminative approach and asking their governments ‘to act before it will be too late”.
To make a stand against hatred-based ideology is not just and only duty of authorities; it is also a natural course of action for those for whom - as formulated by great writer, committed anti-Communist and fierce anti-Nazi Vladimir Nabokov - ‘conscience’ and ‘consciousness’ are the words of the same origin.
Earlier this year, we observed the Hungarian Jobbik fascist party rally in London – conducted on January 26th, 2014, virtually on the eve of the International Holocaust Day.
The full name of this day, according to the UN resolution 60/7 of 2005, is The International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Remembrance of what, one is justified to ask.
At the recent seminar at the European Parliament (January 2014) discussing my new film “The Lessons of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal” MEP Hannu Takkula ( Finland) did address the audience with his serious concern: “One would be shocked to hear the speeches, opinions and views that some MEPs are sharing in the European Parliament freely, consciously, with growing frequency and enthusiasm”. That enthusiasm is based on the ultra-right movements’ expectations on possible upgrading in the European Parliament after the elections in May 2014.
The EU police and intelligence authorities are also very worried about a serious gain of the ultra-right parties in Europe as a whole; their objective data simply does not allow them to be even slightly optimistic about obvious change of the balance of values in pan-European society and Europe’s very probable slippery slide towards the dangerous path of instability - marked with hate and violence.
Five years ago, as a result of the previous elections to the European Parliament, Nick Griffin, the head of the British ultra-nationalist BNP party had been elected as a fresh MEP from the United Kingdom. In his interview for a huge profile in The Sunday Times, he was telling proudly that two of his beloved rottweilers are named “Anne” and “Frank”. He was beaming while telling it to the correspondent, according to the newspaper.
We have not heard of any reaction from any of the European Parliament bodies to that outrage. But we have heard the direct threats towards the people who were trying to organise public hearings in the European Parliament on propagating Nazism within the institution. The hearings never happened. And today Nick Griffin is publicly praising Hezbollah for their help to Assad to sustain his power – in the capacity and with the authority of the Member of the European Parliament.
The question of the day is: will conscience prevail in Europe when it votes for its new Parliament in May 2014, or will we all be compelled to play with rottweilers named ‘Anne’ and ‘Frank’?
Dr Inna Rogatchi is president of The Rogatchi Foundation ( www.rogatchi.org). She is the author of recent film “The Lesson of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesental”, and her forthcoming book is “Stars of Despair, Stars of Hope: Personal Reflections on the Holocaust in the Modern Times”.