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Jan 24, 2024, 12:57pm EST
Europe
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Semafor Signals

EU populism is becoming more mainstream

Insights from Le Monde, Gazeta Wyborcza, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute

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AfD in Germany
REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
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The News

Anti-European populist parties are expected to do well in the upcoming European Parliament elections, according to a new report.

The European Council on Foreign Relations found that populists are likely to top the polls in nine countries, and come second or third in nine others. “The sharp right turn“ in the bloc could dramatically shift Brussels’ approach to key issues like migration, climate change, and the war in Ukraine, the report said.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

EU farmers’ protests are ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ in growing discontent

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Sources:  
The Guardian, Le Monde

Farmers’ protests in several western European countries against green regulations and subsidy cuts stem from a “new kind of agrarian populism,” one EU political scientist told the Guardian. Countries like Germany have slashed farming subsidies on things like diesel vehicles to help the bloc advance its net-zero goals. As a result, farmers’ incomes are also slashed, fueling resentment against the political elite and paving the way for populist and fringe parties to become de facto representatives of the farming sector, according to the Guardian. Far-right parties’ support for farmers has also overlapped with conspiracy theories on issues like COVID and migration. These protests are only ”tip of the iceberg" of growing discontent across Europe, columnist Théodore Tallent wrote for Le Monde, arguing that young, urban voters could also be drawn to populist parties as Brussels fails to address issues like migration and stagnant wages.

Decentralization is key to avoid authoritarianism amid frustration with governments

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Source:  
Gazeta Wyborcza

For many Europeans, the deterioration of social services like healthcare and public education means that federal governments have “become a source of frustration and an object of ridicule due to [their] incompetence,“ University of Warsaw researchers opined in Gazeta Wyborcza. Far-right parties have fueled these anxieties, and their radical platforms risk advancing authoritarian politics across the bloc. To avoid an erosion of democracy, “local, coordinated intervention is necessary,“ the academics wrote, because federal governments are inept at fixing social services that face unique, regional challenges. If regional leaders are given more of a role in addressing economic and social problems, voters will not merely see them as “cash distributors“ but “managers of the aid process, which translates into strengthening democracy.“

U.S. reluctance to decisively end Ukraine war is a win for European populism

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Sources:  
The Hill, Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Policy Research Institute

U.S. President Joe Biden’s lack of aggression in decisively ending the conflict in Ukraine has created the conditions of a “forever war“ and is “giving oxygen“ to populist, anti-war European voices, economist Mark Toth and retired Col. Jonathan Sweet opined in The Hill last year. While the U.S. remains the single largest contributor of military aid to Ukraine, 14 European countries now outpace Washington in “making far larger financial contributions to Ukraine relative to the size of their own economies,“ the Council on Foreign Relations reported. These include several countries that are seeing populist swings like Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Russia sympathizers are still considered too fringe for many voters, but in a prolonged Ukrainian counteroffensive, “anti-Putin populists may reevaluate their current geopolitical calculations,“ the Foreign Policy Research Institute argued.

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