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For the European extreme right, the EU must be “a tool to curb migration crises”

In recent days, the European extreme right has taken advantage of the brutal influx of migrants on the island of Lampedusa to call on Brussels to provide more resources to fight against an “invasion” that Europe would suffer. A sign of an evolution in their relationship with the European Union, now considered as a tool that must be taken control of.

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Giorgia Meloni talking about “the future of Europe” which is being played out in Lampedusa. Marine Le Pen, alongside Matteo Salvini in Pontida, in the north of Italy, assuring that she wants to defend “our traditions, our gastronomy, our identities, our landscapes (…), our people in the face of migratory submersion”: The recent influx of migrants on the small Italian island of Lampedusa has highlighted the new discourse of some of the figures of the European extreme right who have called on the European Union to protect the continent.

With just under nine months until the European elections, this approach shows that far-right parties have abandoned their nationalist discourse on leaving the EU. They now dream of having a majority in the European Parliament to bring about a “civilizationist” bloc and “turn the table from within”, analyzes Jean-Yves Camus, co-director of the Observatory of Political Radicalities at the Jean Jaurès Foundation, specialist in extremes European rights.

According to him, governing forces far-right parties to accept the existence of the EU and to consider it as a tool at the service of their policy, in particular in the fight against immigration.

Read alsoMigration crisis: despite the limits of the firmness policy, Europe toughens its tone a little more

France 24: Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini warned last Sunday against the “migratory submergence” suffered by Europe. For her part, Giorgia Meloni affirmed that the future of Europe was being played out in Lampedusa. Is there an evolution in the discourse of the European extreme right towards Europe?

Jean-Yves Camus: We must distinguish between Europe in the broad sense and the European Union. When Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni talk about protecting themselves against migrants, they evoke Europe seen as a civilization that must be protected against the “invasion” of migrants from Africa.

It is a discourse that has existed for a long time, but which has evolved over time. When the first elections for the European Parliament took place in 1979, three far-right parties – in Italy, Greece and Spain – won some seats. We are then ten years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and their speech pits free Europe against communist peril.

However, the European Union is considered in the minds of Giorgia Meloni or Marine Le Pen as a tool for curbing migration crises. The far right is calling for the pooling of resources. Giorgia Meloni therefore wants a European naval blockade to be put in place. In this sense, she is showing realism, she knows well that Italy alone could not achieve this.

In this sense, isn’t Giorgia Meloni the best example of an extreme right that accommodates the EU?

Giorgia Meloni is indeed coping very well: when we look at the recovery plan adopted by the EU after the Covid-19 crisis, Italy is largely the beneficiary. It’s a blackmail game: ‘You give me that, I agree to do that’. This is called confronting the reality principle. From the moment the extreme right joins a coalition in power, they realize that their speech was a bit peremptory.

If Marine Le Pen arrives at the Élysée, she will be forced to come to terms with France’s international commitments. Even Poland, which is at the forefront of supplying arms to Ukraine and welcoming Ukrainian refugees, has been forced to iron out its relationship with Brussels since the start of the war. Ultimately, only Viktor Orban maintains a virulent discourse towards the European Union because he was able to stay away from the war in Ukraine.

In a few years we have gone from a speech calling for an exit from the EU to the desire to have influence within the European institutions. Have the negative consequences of Brexit in the United Kingdom played a role?

Even before Brexit, Marine Le Pen had made her aggiornamento (her update, Editor’s note) on the issue and no longer promised that her first measure upon coming to power would be a referendum on Frexit. Polls showed that leaving the EU generated anxiety and represented a leap into the void, particularly among young people, who represent a large part of its electorate. In addition, this proposal required him to answer difficult and technical questions during the debates. Marine Le Pen therefore deemed it preferable to review her copy.

However, when you listen to his speech given in Beaucaire last weekend and the presentation of his Declaration of the Rights of Nations and Peoples, it is an extremely violent rejection of any form of supranationality. On this basis, it appears difficult for the National Rally to achieve the same normalization in the European Parliament as that achieved in the National Assembly in France.

On the contrary, the European extreme right now intends to overturn the table from within by changing the balance of power between the right and the national right in Brussels. The European elections therefore represent an important meeting for them, which has not always been the case.


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