“2015 created the perfect storm for the radical right”


Islamophobia & the construction of the Muslim other

The 2015 attacks in Paris carried out by ISIL drive Islamophobia. Meanwhile, the situation in Syria leads to a refugee crisis in Europe.

Mainstreaming of Far Right politics

HUNGARY - The rise of Viktor Orban.

Europe’s Far Right: Russia’s trojan horse?

HUNGARY - The rise of Viktor Orban.

Islamophobia & the construction of the Muslim other

Marine Le Pen salutes the party members as she is named as France's far-right nationalist party, Front National's new leader at a party conference on January 16, 2011 in Tours, France. | PHOTO BY PATRICK DURAND/GETTY IMAGES
“The Muslim is the new symbol of the enemy”

In France, Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie, had taken over as leader of the National Front, shifting its emphasis to a centre ground that had already shifted to the right.

The National Front would amplify its anti-EU credo under Marine Le Pen and in a bid to exploit the perceived mood of the French people, she renounced her father’s anti-semitism, and reclaimed the anti-Islamic rhetoric now part of mainstream politics.

The twin-pronged attack on Muslims and the European Union gave Marine Le Pen 18% of the vote in the 2012 French Presidential elections – proving that she was not only capable of emulating her father’s achievements, but also had a chance of going beyond them…

The political mood in France was volatile, but in 2015 it would be darkened by violence in its capital city,

2015 would begin and end with targeted attacks in Paris that would make Europe’s Muslim ‘other’, Europe’s enemy No 1.

Members of the public grieve as they sit opposite the main entrance of Bataclan concert hall as French police lift the cordon following Fridays terrorist attacks on November 16, 2015 in Paris, France. | PHOTO BY JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

In 2015, attacks in Paris would claim 146 lives. In May 2014, a French gunman shot and killed four people at a Jewish museum in the Belgian capital Brussels.

The attacker had returned from the war in Syria where he had fought with rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The Syrian conflict would also bring more than a million refugees to Europe’s doorstep, while European economies remained mired in troubles of their own.

A child waits with her father at the migrant processing center at the increasingly overwhelmed Moria camp on the island of Lesbos on October 23, 2015 in Mytilene, Greece. | PHOTO BY SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES

Europe was ill-prepared for a mass intake of new people as weaker nations, many at the coalface of the refugee crisis, continued to struggle economically.

For the European Union, the confluence of crises around violence, refugees and failing economies was a troubling brew that called for tighter control.

For Europe’s far right, it would yield timely opportunity.

Mainstreaming of Far Right politics

A woman holds a placard reading 'Je Suis Charli' (I am Charlie) during a gathering of people showing their support for the victims of the terrorist attack at French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in front of the Embassy of France on January 7, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. | PHOTO BY PABLO BLAZQUEZ DOMINGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES
“Terrorist attacks produced a very powerful image for far-right parties to be the scapegoat a lot of the problems”


In Germany, the far right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) Party looked to challenge Angela Merkel’s willkommenskultur refugee policy.

Supporters of the AFD political party, including one woman holding a sign with an arrow that reads: 'Refugees Welcome, Federal Cahncellery (in) Berlin', attend an election rally. | PHOTO BY SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES

A welcoming culture was far removed from what the AfD stood for.


Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban openly championed illiberalism, challenging press freedoms, the independence of the judiciary and the idea of open borders.

His right-wing policies appealed to populist fears, and disregarded EU authority.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban listens during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks on February 2, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. | PHOTO BY CARSTEN KOALL/GETTY IMAGES

Orban signalled his vision of a Christian Europe, but also looked to check the advance of the extreme right Jobbik party.

Hungary’s political landscape was now being shaped by far right forces competing for power.

Protesters holding sings that read: 'Welcome' and 'NOT you, Mr. Orban!' demonstrate outside the Kloster Banz congress center against the arrival of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a meeting of the CSU Bavarian Christian Democrats parliamentary faction in Bad Staffelstein, Germany. | PHOTO BY SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES

Hungary’s prime minister stepped up and changed the game, talking up the merits of illiberalism, undermining the key principle of European solidarity.

Europe’s Far Right: Russia’s trojan horse?

Demonstrators holding a banner that reads: 'Putin No! Europe Yes!' march to protest against a visit to Budapest by Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as against the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on February 16, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. | PHOTO BY SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGE
“The Kremlin has developed a network of influence across Western and Eastern Europe that can be activated almost like Trojan horses across the region”

Western Europe’s liberalism was being challenged by right-wing governments and far right radicals.

For Russian leader Vladimir Putin, long regarded as an illiberal force by the West, this would be an opportunity to serve Russia’s interests and widen cracks in Europe’s unity.

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