In the latest issue of Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe blog at Carnegie Europe, a selection of 12 experts, including CEPI’s Director Milan Nič, answer a new question on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

 

Milan Nič, Managing director of the Central European Policy Institute

Populists are perhaps not running Europe, but they are running an increasing number of EU countries, including Greece, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. To avoid stereotypes, populism is a problem not only of Southern or Eastern Europeans. Populist parties form part of the government in Finland and have prospered in several core EU countries such as Austria and the Netherlands. The key turning point for the future of the EU project will be the success or failure of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, in the 2017 French presidential election.

An interesting phenomenon occurs when mainstream parties turn populist. The March 5 parliamentary election in Slovakia shows what might happen if this trend goes too far. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s anti-EU tone and fearmongering against Muslim immigrants in the election campaign marginalized moderate pro-EU voices and opened the doors to more radical and authentic populism. The extremist party of Marian Kotleba entered the parliament for the first time, with fourteen out of 150 members.

A by-product was fragmentation of Slovakia’s political system and marginalization of the mainstream parties. Fico’s most successful challengers were the loudest ones: two new populist center-right parties with anticorruption agendas and Euroskeptic programs. These forces are now close to forming the new government in Bratislava. If they manage, they will also be in charge of the next rotating presidency of the EU Council, as Slovakia is in line to take over in the second half of 2016. In this sense, yes, populists might soon be running some of the EU’s agenda.

You can read other contributions here.