Paris: The dream of building the United States of Europe will become an obsolete memory of the past.
European nationalist parties are enjoying a worrying surge of support on the back of the continent’s migrant crisis, a development that has been largely overlooked.
The rise of far-right parties in Europe – like the Front National in France or Golden Dawn in Greece – has been a major story over the last few years, but recent developments have received much less attention even though their gains have been more dramatic.
A hardline extreme right party entered the parliament of Cyprus while, most astonishingly, Norbert Hofer, the presidential candidate of Austria’s Freedom Party, although narrowly defeated, gained an incredible 49.7 percent of the votes.
This immediately prompted France’s National Front – an allied party in the Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European Union parliament – to release an enthusiastic statement.
The electoral performance was, in their view, promising “for the successes all the patriotic movements”, suggesting that “the return of national sovereignty is now a matter of time”.
In a knife-edge contest that divided the country and captured the attention of the entire continent, the FPÖ candidate, Norbert Hofer, lost to Green-endorsed Alexander Van der Bellen by 30,863 votes.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, Hofer had appealed to his supporters to accept Van der Bellen as president. “We should all pull together,” Hofer said at the time. “There are no signs of electoral fraud.”
The filing of the challenge was confirmed by Christian Neuwirth, a spokesman for Austria’s constitutional court.
The court now has four weeks to respond. If it takes the full four weeks, its findings will come just two days before the poll winner, Alexander Van der Bellen, is due to be sworn in.
The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but a victory for the Freedom Party could have been a springboard for success in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2018.
The BBC’s Bethany Bell in Vienna says that if the constitutional court accepts the evidence presented by Mr Strache, there could be several possible outcomes, including a partial recount or a fresh vote in affected areas.
But the court will have to decide whether the law was broken and whether any possible breaches would have affected the outcome of the election.
The future of Europe?
The future of European societies could, however, follow these specific lines: “Our European cultures, our values and our freedom are under attack. They are threatened by the crushing and dictatorial powers of the European Union. They are threatened by mass immigration, by open borders and by a single European currency,” as Marcel de Graaff, co-president of the Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European Parliament, declared.
Another fellow party, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, calls for an opposition to multiculturalism. It “defends the interests of the Dutch-speaking people wherever this is necessary”, and would “dissolve Belgium and establish an independent Flemish state. This state … will include Brussels”, the current capital of the EU institutions.
In sum, Europe will probably look if one follows the “moderate” far-right policies.
The dream of building the United States of Europe will become an obsolete memory of the past.
And the old continent will be surely less similar to the post-national one which guaranteed peace and – relative – prosperity after the disaster of World War II.
Andrea Mammone is a historian of modern Europe at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of “Transnational Neofascism in France and Italy”. He is currently writing a book on the recent nationalist turn in Europe.