Is Immigration To Blame For The Rise of Far Right Populism in Europe?


By Alicia Peterpaul

Immigration is the key factor to the far-right populism in Europe, along with a few others. Also, that being part of the European Union does in fact undermine individual state autonomies in European countries.
In reference to the policy autonomy in the Europe, the Eurozone actually happens to undermine it more so than it does strengthen it. Although, the aim of the European Union was to initially, bring its members closer, this has failed to happen. (Bradbury, 2009) Although, the EU has been able to work together on a lot of matters, a lot of interests and policy autonomy is being undermined in the process. Bradbury describes many cases where members of the Eurozone’s individual policy autonomy was undermined. The Eurozone was created in 1992, as they agreed on things like foreign policy and to also implement the Euro. They basically made agreements on many things, however, the problem with this was the European Court of Justice had no say over the new European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. This was only the beginning to the loss of individual state’s autonomy. (Bradbury, 2009) In turn this would take away their state autonomy and leave them to bargain and negotiate on terms and policies that they wanted for their own countries. The EU was left having to adjust and modify their policies based on the many different views of all of the member states. The UK and Denmark negotiated terms to be part of the EU in a sense, but did not fully agree to everything. Ireland wanted to keep certain laws they had in place surrounding abortions. Danish wished to have more money to spend on the welfare state of their country then the rest of the EU initially agreed too. So almost from the very beginning there was differences within the EU, because it is impossible to get 28 member states to agree on all of the same things. (Bradbury, 2009) Many of the countries who did not fully agree with all of the implementations put in by the EU and required special status for whatever reasons, had to go through referendums and wait a long time to even be allowed to have their individual needs met. With the European Union only been formed for a few years, Germany and France were already very skeptical of the union. (Bradbury, 2009) Countries still had great availability to the markets, however, it seemed to be at the expense of their own state autonomy. (Bradbury, 2009)
The immigration policies have been a major questionable dispute within the Eurozone. The UK feels very strong about the immigration policy, hence Brexit The would like the flow of refugees to stop entering their country, along with many other states in the European Union. If Brexit successfully happens they may be the first state to exit the European Union. Bradbury suggests that in the 1990’s when the EU was formed the prerequisites to join may have seemed simple back then, but clearly have shown to be a very big challenge. (Bradbury, 2009) Treaties and referendums have continued through until the early 2000’s and clearly today as we see with Brexit. The EU has constantly been about the compromise of state autonomy for another state or some type of policy. (Bradbury, 2009)
In early 2000’s representatives from member states had all gotten together to try to figure out new rules that would in hope, work for all of them. This treaty was known as the “The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe”. Bradbury states that there was a problem with this “new” treaty from the very beginning and it was there was not that much “new” content in it at all. However, there was a number of reforms along with an actual constitution. (Bradbury, 2009)
As Moravcsik argues that policy autonomy has not been taking away, he illustrates in multiple circumstances which state autonomy has been undermined in the European Union. (Moravcsik, 2002) He states that individual states and their governments have absolutely no power over the monetary police as well as the external trade negotiations, meaning that whatever the European Union agrees upon each individual state must legally follow through with. A counter-argument for this has absolutely illegitimate grounds because by definition, anytime that the sovereignty or the right to make decisions for your own country are taken away your state autonomy is undermined. (Moravcsik, 2002)
Jabko suggests that the Euro itself is the largest actor in undermining the autonomy of individual state autonomy within the European Union. He suggests that the Euro holds two faces, and the second one that is more hidden is one that is much less left-wing than not. (Jabko, 2010) In his article, Jabko also strongly suggests that the Euro itself is a way to gain political control over members of the European Union, and they do so through the use of the markets. States simply need access to the markets in order for their individual economies to remain constant and reliable, and in turn as one may have guessed, it contributes to erosion of individual state autonomy. (Jabko, 2010) The markets are merely elitist constructs. Jabko also believes that the management style of the EU markets is a way for the elite to have control over globalization. This does however, keep the economy of individual states steady, but the constant conflict has been damaging to state autonomy. (Jabko, 2010)
By definition populism ultimately means ‘people’ and essentially populism is the people against the elite. In an attempt to suitably distinguish what populism is, I will identify some of its main characteristics. Populism is typically (not always) a far-right political doctrine. Typically, populists hold some type of discontent and dissatisfaction towards the political system itself, resulting in animosity. There also tends to be animosity not only towards the establishment, but also the elite; They also tend to have a lot of distrust towards the elite. They are displeased with all current parties in place. It is uncommon to see people who are not actually politicians rather a type of celebrity to be celebrated by populists. Populism is in a sense very similar to a social movement where the people are oppressed from social or economic conditions such as raising prices, corrupt government or unemployment.
The rise of the far-right populism in Europe used to be thought of as a result of the incompetent or uneducated groups in Europe; At least, in Kriesi’s early work. In some of Kriesi’s earlier work he also found that the populist right was more likely to be unskilled. Kriesi later discovered in some of his more recent work that the rise of the far-right populism is due to immigration and denationalization, in other words holding animosity towards your own country, as we know distrust and animosity are key components of populism. Kriesi also suggests that the far-right populist class is not so much a result of a certain cleavage but better fits with the term “political division” because people are more divided politically rather than a process of de-structuration or re-structuration occurring. (Kriesi, 2010) Another factor that has contributed to the far-right populists in Europe is the result of something Kriesi briefly touches on, and also a phenomenon known as ‘extremism’. Kriesi also suggests that people used to relate on things like gender, ethnicity and religion, but now, because with the rise not only social media, but also of urbanization people are abler to relate to one another over political issues. Basically, with the rise of new digital media, many social networking outlets have been known to filter to the interest of a specific user. This can be referred to as me-media, where we basically, simply, do not get to see what we need to see rather, we are exposed to what they believe we want to see. Facebook, Twitter and Google, are all responsible for this ‘filtering’ effect. As a result, people are more likely to engage with others who are very like-minded, this leads to a group of individuals who essentially feed off of one another. They are simply not exposed to anyone else who has conflicting observations, so their own become very strong. Some of the most extreme cases of this concept include white supremacy and ISIS. Kriesi also believes that populism is a result of this extremist filtering effect. (Kriesi, 2010) Kriesi also suggests that the opening up of national boarders very well contributes to the rise of the far-right populism in Europe today. Kriesi identifies the two different types of people that immigration could effect as winners and losers, noting that the losers are usually put in motion over culture. (Kriesi, 2010) Kriesi suggests that this far-right shift began to rise in the 1990’s and that it is mainly because of cultural terms, (which all sounds very xenophobic). He also notes that the populist right tends to adhere to traditionalist-communitarian views. (Kriesi, 2010)
Brexit is the abbreviated version of “British Exit” and it is term used to describe Britain leaving the European Union. This is a prime example of far-right populism in Europe. Ultimately, Brexit occurred as a result of immigration. As the civil war in Syria persists the volume of refugees is growing substantially. Countries in Europe have opened up their boarders to certain amounts of refugees and the citizens of Europe are displeased with the decision to do so. (Lehne) The European Union had agreed to welcome 160,000 refugees, and it has proved to be a difficult task to settle all of them. Many countries in Europe wanted to slow down the amount of refugees passing through their boarders. Lehne notes that the refugee crisis is likely to continue for decades.
Xenophobia in part, accounts for the rise of the far-right populism in Europe. However, according to Lehne immigration is actually needed to maintain the economy in some parts of Europe because the birth rate is steadily declining. (Lehne)
A few other things that may account populism in Europe are as follows. for Kriesi states that it is not only a matter of decentralization, but also its consequences. One of the subsequent interpretations of decentralization, is ethics. The far-right populists tend to be more religious/Christian, as the left are far less Christian. Mudde notes in his article that populism may stem from the fact that today, people are much more educated than they were before. Mudde also notes that because people are gaining more knowledge of the job requirements of politicians, they believe they could carry out their jobs more effectively. (Mudde, 2004)
I have outlined the ways in which member state’s autonomies are being eroded on topics on things like immigration and referendums. I have also argued that the Euro is one of the key contributors to the undermining of state autonomy for European states. I have briefly defined of populism is. I have also outline many causes for the rise of the far-right populism in Europe. I briefly discussed Brexit and continued on to discuss the immigration in regards to the rise of the far-right. Ultimately, I will argue that Immigration is the key factor to the far-right populism in Europe, along with a few others. Also, that being part of the European Union does in fact undermine individual state autonomies in European countries.

Works Cited:
Stefan Lehne. “How the Refugee Crisis will Reshape the EU.” Carnegie Foundation article:
Andrew Moravcsik. 2002. “In Defense of the Democratic Deficit: Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union” The Journal of Common Market Studies 40(4): 603-624.
Nicholas Jabko. 2010. “The Hidden Face of the Euro.” Journal of European Public Policy 17(3): 318-334.
Hanspeter Kriesi. 2010. “Restructuration of Partisan Politics and the Emergence of a New Cleavage Based on Values.” West European Politics 33(3): 673-85.
Cas Mudde. 2004. “The Populist Zeitgeist.” Government and Opposition 39(3): 541-563.
Jonathan Bradbury. 2009. “The European Union and the Contested Politics of ‘Ever Closer Union’: Approaches to Integration, State Interests and Treaty Reform since Maastricht.” Perspectives on European Politics and Society 10(1): 17-33.


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