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15 April 2024

The far-right and the changing politics of Europe

A new podcast episode explores how the far-right has seen its popularity grow across Europe in recent years and how this is changing the political landscape across the continent.

Anti fascist demostration in Germany with placard saying learn from history

The latest episode of the WORLD: we got this podcast series, looks at the rise of the far-right across Europe, how it is impacting other political parties and what it could mean for this year’s European Parliamentary elections.

Featuring Dr Georgios Samaras, Assistant Professor in Public Policy at King’s International School for Government, the episode also explores the implications of this trend for countries such as the UK and whether there is there anything society and individuals can do to halt or reverse the rise of the far-right across Europe.

Dr Samaras shares examples of how the far-right has grown in popularity in many parts of Europe such The Brothers of Italy, whose leader Georgia Meloni is now the Italian Prime Minister. He says Viktor Orbán has led Hungary to an authoritarian hybrid regime, there are now three far right parties in the Greek Parliament and in Germany the AfD has seen its support grow.

This trend means in this year’s European Parliamentary elections, the far-right is expected to achieve significant gains.

Approximately 25% of the seats are projected to be secured by far-right factions, so this is expected to significantly bolster their sway over policy formulation and decision-making processes within the governing bodies.

Dr Georgios Samaras

The UK has left the EU, but he said the stability and the structure of the European Parliament might have an impact on the decision making of NATO, which could affect Britain, especially if the new far-right MEPs exert their influence on defence spending decisions.

Dr Samaras said far-right parties are becoming more popular across Europe as a result of positioning themselves as defenders of cultural stability, with an emphasis on opposing migration and progressive attitudes to gender.

This is leading to parties in the centre-right adjusting their approach to try to win back voters, with migration and gender values also now significantly influencing their rhetoric and policies.

He says in the past far-right parties could not gain public popularity because of memories of World War Two, but things have changed significantly today because of this blurring of lines.

The reason politics of memory is no longer playing a role is because of how the lines between the far right and the centre-right are being blurred. So, we can see that some ideological characteristics appear to be mutual, and when they become common amongst right wing entities, it is very difficult to distinguish between those, so people do not really perceive the far-right as far-right.

Dr Georgios Samaras.

Dr Samaras says the centre-right needs to behave differently and rediscover their own identities. He also thinks the EU needs to play a more active role in tackling increasingly authoritarian trends.

He outlines what he calls a “decline in democratic standards in Greece” – as shown during a recent wiretapping scandal which he says has not been properly investigated, nor did it lead to any prosecutions. He also shares other examples of spyware being used by governments to keep an eye on opponents.

On Russia he says that Putin has managed to become a leading authoritarian figure and suggests he was constantly enabled by European union structures, such as the reliance on Russian energy. He warns Putin could inspire copycat practices in other European leaders, with some potentially admiring his ruthlessness and strong grip on power.

On what society can do to counter the rise of the far-right, he says Europe must protect democracy.

The EU must actively address all the issues related to democracy and the quality of life across Europe, because those political changes have the potential to impact democracy. The erosion of democracy can impact many vulnerable groups and minorities across Europe

Dr Georgios Samaras.

He also thinks individuals can help to counter the rise of the far-right and threats to democracy.

I think that activism is the number one way to address those issues and be more involved in politics. Antifascist movements across Europe have played a significant role in tackling the rise of the far right, and I have faith that this can happen again in 2024.

Dr Georgios Samaras.

Listen to the episode

Find the episode on Acast, Spotify, Apple podcasts and Google podcasts.

If you are interested in gaining further insights from Dr Samaras and other experts across King’s around this extraordinary year of elections, check out our Poll to Poll 2024 series of comment pieces and events.

In this story

Georgios Samaras

Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Public Policy