Expanding east a no go?


The European Union is facing a potential wave of resurgent nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe that could threaten its proposed eastern expansion.

The rise to power of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, led by the now-infamous Jörg Haider, has brought to light further nationalist, right-wing sentiment in numerous other European countries. Several of these have witnessed significant public support. Much of this sentiment is based on a hatred of foreigners.

“In Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party made big gains in national elections in October, taking 22 percent of the vote after campaigning with the slogan ‘Stop Asylum Abuse.’ In Norway, the Party of Progress, which opposes all immigration from non-European cultures beyond a UN quota, received 15 percent of the vote in the last national elections in 1997. In Denmark, the anti-immigrant People’s Party gets nearly 16 percent in the polls. In Germany, the Deutsche Volksunion polled 25 percent among young voters in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt in 1998 after preaching that foreigners endangered jobs and were responsible for crime” (AP Online, Feb. 9).

These, along with Austria, are EU member countries, which officially adhere to European principles of democracy, liberty and respect for human rights. The threat that a right-wing, nationalist movement presents to these principles has recently received some attention. And, as one U.S. think tank has pointed out, this becomes even more of a problem when considering eastward EU expansion.

“British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook warned Austria February 14 that anti-foreigner and anti-EU nationalist sentiment had no place in a modern Europe. He added that it was especially important for the union to take a tough line against Austria in the name of Central and Eastern European states hoping to join the EU. His statement is ironic given that Austrian nationalism pales in comparison to nationalist sentiment further east. In fact, only a few days earlier, the far-right party in EU-candidate Hungary announced its intention to join in the government with a ruling coalition party. Cook’s statement is as much a warning to European nationalists as it is an affirmation that Europe has only begun to deal with nationalism in EU expansion” (Stratfor Global Intelligence Update, Feb.16).

Dealing with conflicting nationalist ideologies in would-be member states is sure to present a hurdle as the EU continues to look east.