This year Europe is coming face to face with her ghosts. Extreme right forces are seeking a leading role in several countries. The importance of the French election becomes crucial. In this context, SolidarityNow organized yesterday (27.03.2017) the open discussion entitled Europe in the Mirror: the French Elections and the “Extreme Right International”.
Six distinguished speakers presented their ideas and discussed: the rise of nationalism and racism, multiple identity issues, migration, “the Extreme Right International”, its historical roots and spread if its ideology, the economic crisis, terrorism and security threats, normalization of ideas and practices of the far-rig, the role of the media.
- Karim Amellal, Writer, Institute of Political Studies, Paris
- Jean-François Bayart, Political Scientist, Graduate Institute of International & Development Studies, Geneva
- Jean-Paul Gautier, Political Scientist (PhD) and Historian, Researcher on Extreme Right in France
- Adéa Guillot, Journalist / Correspondent in Greece (Le Monde, Arte, Le Soir)
- Nikos Smyrnaios, Senior Lecturer, Political Economy of the Media, University of Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier
- Daphne Halikiopoulou, Associate Professor in Comparative Politics, Reading University
Moderator: Kostis Papaioannou, f. General Secretary of Human Rights
Karim Amellal mentioned that, in a way, Le Pen and the National Front have already won the elections since they have won the ideological battle in France. Two are the main issues today he explained: “Firstly the ideas of the far-right are normalized inside the French society – Islam, terrorism, leaving the E.U etc.- and secondly, there is a generalized indifference by the people, not a new phenomenon but one we were not paying attention to and now we see its consequences”.
Daphne Halikiopoulou approached the French elections from a comparative perspective. She made a comparison between the National Front and other European extreme right parties in terms of three key areas: a. programmatic discourse and the ‘de-demonization’ strategy, b. the voter profile, which expands to include more women and younger voters, c. the use of context, through the management of the economy and immigration.
Jean-Paul Gautier, highlighted that the rise of Marine Le Pen in the leadership of the National Front, gave new momentum to the party, by ‘smoothing’ the language it uses. “Le Pen seems to support homosexuals and women who feel threatened by Islam. She seems to have a more liberal agenda in comparison to her father but essentially, it’s the same shop with a slightly different showcase. The ideological base is the same”, explained Mr. Gautier.
Journalist Adéa Guillot, linked the discussion to the exploitation of the refugee issue. “How can the far-right exploit the refugee problem in Greece? By exploiting people’s anxieties and fears, taking normal feelings, and using them to manipulate people”, she stated.
Nikos Smyrnaios analysed the confidence crisis in the media, highlighting that “we conclude that the basic explanation when it comes to information confusion (confusionnisme), conspiracy theories and prejudice which dominate a large section of the French public, is the outcome of their disappointment and lack of trust towards mainstream media. Thus, the media system as well as part of the journalists are significantly responsible for this situation which favors the rise of the far-right”.
Jean-François Bayart mentioned that our weakness to face constructed ideas as well as the rise of the National Front is related to globalisation, the declining idea of the state and the subsequent identity crisis. “Europe today has to face a ‘national-liberal’ (national-libérale) system. The problem in Europe is not the lack of employment but the lack of stable employment, which is the basis for far-right ideas”, stressed Mr Bayart.
Kostis Papaioannou closed the discussion by saying that “we are threatened by the diffusion of the xenophobic far-right ideology into an electoral domino where anti-establishment views, democratic fatigue, fear and anger prevail. However, a leveling anti-populism of no alternative (there is no alternative) is suggested as the antidote to the European populism. In this way, political elites are detached from the real problems and the far-right seeks to be the only force that proposes solutions. Le Pen’s and Orban’s scarecrows are less frightening when representatives of the European political dreadlock surround them. At the same time, the extreme right agenda is fed by the Jihadist terrorism and vice versa. In Greece, the importance for both the criminal response against Golden Dawn as well its political isolation is constantly proven. In this context, the joint appearance of Golden Dawns leaders with religious leaders consists a major faux pas”.
The Civil Society Prize awarded to Amed Khan
Prior to the event, the President of the SolidarityNow Board of Directors, Mr. Stelios Zavvos, awarded a Civil Society Prize to Amed Khan, a great philanthropist and founder of the Elpida Home in Thessaloniki. In the framework of the Elpida Home, Mr. Khan and his team rehabilitated an abandoned clothing factory in the north part of Thessaloniki, transforming it to a unique camp with a humane approach which provides shelter to 800 refugees.