Far Right Rises in Central Europe

From the September 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Far-right parties are gaining popularity in Central Europe. Slovakia provides a recent example, where its new government coalition includes an extreme-right party that has rabidly xenophobic views and speaks fondly of that country’s pro-Nazi wartime administration.

Though the leftist Smer (Social Democratic) party won the June 17 Slovak elections, it needed coalition partners to form a government. A key party chosen in early July was the Slovak National Party, which not only sympathizes with Jozef Tiso’s fascist World War ii government (infamous for having paid the Nazis to send 70,000 Jews to death camps) but is also extremely hostile to the large gypsy and Hungarian minorities within Slovakia. It has even proposed interning the gypsies in camps.

Slovakia’s embrace of extremism follows on the heels of a similar situation in Poland, where a coalition government was formed in early May in which the far-right, ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families joined with a populist party and conservatives.

The popularity of extremists is increasing in Europe because of widespread dissatisfaction with the way more mainstream governments are handling unemployment and immigration.

When Jan Slota, leader of the Slovak National Party, was asked by the Slovak Spectator a month before the elections about the threats his party intends to protect the Slovaks from, he referred to “Muslim fundamentalism” as “very dangerous. Slovakia is an overwhelmingly Catholic country and is disturbed by the flow of Muslims to France, Germany and England, where a great many now live” (May 20).

This type of thinking resonates increasingly with Europeans across the Continent.

The Financial Times of July 7 warned of the dangers: “Set in the context of recent events in Poland and the rise of Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria in 2000, the concern now is that we are seeing the start of a trend in which each success for an extremist party in one country emboldens and helps legitimize extremist parties in others. … So far, these groups have been junior partners to more mainstream parties who say they can prevent extremist rhetoric from translating into government policy. But if this trend continues, it may only be a matter of time before such a party becomes the leading force in government. If that happens, modern European history will have entered a new period.”

A “new period” in European history is indeed about to begin. The political success of hard-line nationalist leaders reflects a mood of dissatisfaction among many Europeans. There is a desire for strong leaders who promise solutions. We can expect such trends to continue in Europe, making conditions ripe for the rise of a powerful leader prophesied to lead a united Europe and have an unprecedented impact on the world scene.