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Nationalists Rising in Europe; Fragility of European Unity, its Exorbitant Effects on Ukraine War

Strategic Council Online - Interview: An expert on Europe affairs, stating that the Ukraine war and the exorbitant costs it imposed on European countries could be one of the causes of the rise of the far-right nationalist wing in that continent, added: Despite the energy crisis, rising prices, shortage of resources and economic problems caused by the war in Ukraine, it seems that European integration is weakening and countries, more than collective concerns in Europe, are thinking about their national interests.

In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Farnaz Eskandari, referring to the refusal of the Hungarian government to grant 18 million dollars in aid to Ukraine in 2023 on behalf of the European Union, stated: Viktor Orbán, before becoming the prime minister of Hungary, was the head of the Fidesz Party since 1993 with a short break between 2000 and 2003; Fidesz – the Hungarian Civil Alliance – is a right-wing, national conservative populist political party in Hungary, and Orbán is the first post-Cold War head of state in Eastern and Central Europe who was not a member of a Soviet-era communist regime.

Reminded that the far-right parties had a growing process in the politics of European countries in recent years and were able to attract the attention of a large part of the voters, especially the youth, by opposing the presence of immigrants and warning against multiculturalism, she cited the increase in unemployment, increase in tax rates and decrease in the level of welfare of life as other factors of the rise of those parties in Europe.

The analyst of Europe affairs stated that intensification of anti-immigration on the one hand and the spread of opposition and skepticism towards the European Union integration process on the other hand are among the consequences that we are witnessing in connection with power gaining of those parties and groups in Europe, adding: Moscow has always used the extreme right wing in Europe to weaken the West, and the Russian government has an important position with the European populist parties. The biased policies of those parties are based on belief and affinity with Putin’s ideological principles.

Eskandari explained: The ideological solidarity of the right-wing populist parties with the rulers of Russia includes conservative social values, defense of national sovereignty, centralization of the state power, and rejection of internationalism and liberal interventionism. Those parties are useful to Moscow in that they help legitimize Kremlin policies. In addition, far-right groups in Europe have used Russia’s attack on Ukraine to promote anti-Western narratives.

She added: According to experts, the content shared by extremist groups in France, Germany and Britain in the early stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine blamed NATO and the United States, and at the same time promoted propaganda in favor of Russia.

The expert of the Institute for European Studies, stating that Viktor Orbán is known in the European Union as the closest ally of Vladimir Putin, added: He was clearly opposed to the EU sanctions against Moscow from the very beginning, but in the end he voted for those sanctions. The prime minister of Hungary emphasized: The military conflict in Ukraine puts us in a difficult situation, which is difficult for us, because we are a member of the European Union. Hungary does not agree with unacceptable and irrational economic measures against Russia that lead to price increase, because sanctions against Russia are equivalent to an atomic bomb and will lead to famine and unprecedented mass migration.

Eskandari listed Hungary’s lack of support for the sanctions against Russian religious figures as one of Orban’s other actions and continued: The prime minister of Hungary, speaking at the international conference of conservatives, criticizing the influx of immigrants who are forced into Hungary, called the Western strategy of sanctions against Russia as a failure and stressed that he is not interested in racial mixing, the Hungarians are not a mixed race and do not want to be.

Referring to the decision of the Hungarian government to oppose the European Union’s support plan for Ukraine, the analyst of Europe affairs clarified: Orban said that although Hungary condemns the Russian military attack on Ukraine and supports the Ukrainians, it does not want to give priority to their interests than the interests of his country and in a controversial move, he opposed the 18 billion EU support package to Ukraine. With Hungary’s opposition, this aid plan will face an obstacle, because such a proposal requires the agreement of all the member states of the Union.

She added: Some in the European Union analyzed such measures in line with the pressure on the Union to release billions of dollars from the budget allocated to Hungary. The European Union has suspended multibillion-dollar aid to Hungary over concerns about “risks generated from financial corruption”.

The expert on Europe affairs considered the split in the united front to support Ukraine to be one of the consequences of Hungary’s opposition and said: Countries like Italy and Hungary have asked the European Union to explicitly demand a ceasefire in Ukraine and hold peace talks with Russia and to show itself in front of other member countries that are determined to take a tough stance against Moscow. On the other hand, the differences of opinion among the Western Bloc countries over that war, as well as the small arms support provided by some of those countries, have caused doubts among NATO members, especially the neighboring countries of Ukraine.

According to Eskandari, those countries think that some Western countries do not attach importance to imposing defeat on Russia and prefer that with the early end of the war start the peace talks as soon as possible.

Stressing that with the gap among the European countries, the weakening of their convergence is being witnessed, she said: After the Brexit, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is being considered as the most important geopolitical development in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. While there are positive elements in the EU’s response to such aggression, there are also worrying signs of pressures within the EU. After the disasters of World Wars I and II, the motivation to form the European Union increased, and this motivation came from the decision to rebuild Europe and eliminate the possibility of another war, but in that period, despite the energy crisis, rising prices, lack of resources and economic problems caused by the war in Ukraine seem to weaken the European convergence, and countries are more concerned about their national interests than the collective concerns in Europe.

In the conclusion, while addressing the existence of grounds for strengthening the extreme right in Europe, Eskandari added: There are multiple economic, social, cultural and political reasons for strengthening the radical right wing in various European countries, and it seems that the war in Ukraine and the exorbitant costs that have been imposed on the European Union, can be one of the causes of the growth of the nationalist extreme right wing in Europe.

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