The recent French presidential election saw a rise in the popularity of far-right nationalist candidates. Given France’s stance as Europe’s leading country, now that Merkel has stepped aside, the rise of anti-EU nationalism in the Hexagon is worrisome. Not only the EU’s existence is threatened, but democracy itself is at risk.
First of all, far-right nationalists despise the EU. During the presidential election, candidates such as Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour were very vocal about their resentment towards the EU and NATO. There even was a rumor that a Frexit would occur. Thankfully for the Western block, Emmanuel Macron’s reelection has erased all shades of a potential Frexit, and peace was restored in Europe, one of the biggest actors in promoting cohesion and democracy alongside the US.
Now, what do far-right candidates have against the EU?
The first factor is that the EU directly gets in the way of a sovereign France. Indeed, nationalism and belonging to the EU are two things that can hardly coexist, as seen with Brexit. Nationalists believe that organizations like the EU undermine their capacities, where they are on the same wavelength as Estonia or Slovenia. Furthermore, both countries were great and prosperous empires less than two centuries ago. Nostalgia prevails amongst the nationalist people, and some do not bear being relegated from world power to members of an international organization. In other words, far-right French candidates want to make France great again.
They also reject European laws, particularly the ones regarding immigration. Another common trait amongst French nationalists is their hatred toward immigrants. According to them, foreign culture threatens their own, and France isn’t France anymore if it keeps accepting immigrants as the EU laws require. Additionally, felonies, ranging from petty thefts to murder, committed by illegal immigrants are becoming a big problem. Attacks are regularly perpetrated by Islamist immigrants, some of them causing casualties. Article 18 of the EU laws prohibits sending immigrants back to their native country. The nationalists are firmly opposed to the EU’s policies.
However, if we look all across the globe, we understand that France is far from being alone in facing an immigrant dilemma dividing the country. Unlike in France, the nationalists won in the UK, acted Brexit and reduced immigration by a truckload. The US under The Trump Administration faced similar circumstances: repression of the immigrants and prevention of their entry.
Certainly, open frontiers for immigrants like the EU Frontex cause a lot of problems. The Schengen space, which basically abolishes borders between countries members of the EU, facilitates drug and weapon trafficking. Thus, anyone can illegally enter a country and roam freely in Europe. The far-right and conservative candidates have a valid point of view, even though it goes against democratic values of tolerance and freedom of travel. The immigration issue in Europe is becoming even more acute with the Ukrainian immigrants. Some countries argue they have to make an exception and make them cross the frontier informally, while others claim it is not fair to the other immigrants in crises who have to follow the procedures.
Immigration is dividing and polarizing everywhere. Nationalists and conservatives are gaining ground in liberal strongholds like the EU and the US, which is bad news for democracy. The last time conservative and radical nationalists seized power in Europe was in the 1930s, with Hitler and Mussolini. Although history repeating itself seems highly unlikely, if Russia can invade Ukraine (which seemed unlikely a few months ago), it seems as though we are not safe from anything anymore.
Immigration is an issue with a lot more at stake than we think. If those against it should seize power in democratic strongholds, the world might face unprecedented chaos.