The Brief, powered by Goldman Sachs – Where have the populists gone?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/MATTEO BAZZI]

Where have Europe’s far-right populists disappeared to? Where are Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Matteo Salvini and the others? There has not been a peep from them for a long time – almost since COVID-19 came about.

We would have thought they should be triumphant now, given that borders are back, that sovereignism is fashionable, that globalism is blamed for the lack of autonomy in such simple matters as the supplies of masks, and that countries had to return to industries they had abandoned to other continents.

They could have used every opportunity to repeat “we told you so”, they could have blamed the open-door policies for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and in Vienna, perpetrated by sons of recent migrants.

But we haven’t heard from them.

And we don’t hear from them now, when anti-vaxxers are mobilising, when Berlin or Milan are rocked by people protesting against the lockdown, who don’t believe the virus exists.

We didn’t hear them criticising the lockdowns (such an easy job!), or standing in support of the hard-hit tourist and restaurant sectors.

And we didn’t hear them protesting against the results of the US elections – as if populists had just stopped being international. Poor Steve Bannon, he tried hard.

It’s true that in most of the big EU countries there are no key elections upcoming. But even without elections, politicians reach out to their power base – and we don’t see that in the case of the populists.

One of the possible explanations could be that the coronavirus crisis has completely eclipsed other narratives that gave fodder to the populists.

Take immigration, their favourite narrative. Has immigration stopped? Not at all – look at what happens every day in the Canary Islands.

However, immigration has completely disappeared from the news and from the public’s attention, eclipsed by COVID-related chronicles.

That probably means that immigration is only as big as the press and the politicians want it to be.

This is good to keep in mind, especially by responsible media.

COVID is a virus we still know little about. From a political perspective, the virus has a destructive capacity in terms of political agendas, like in times of war.

Because what is true for the populists is also true for other political parties in opposition.

Where are they? Do you hear from them? Where have they all disappeared to? And for how long – and with what consequences – will they be silent?

A message from Goldman Sachs: The Economics of Net Carbon Zero. As net-zero becomes more affordable, Goldman Sachs Research looks into the reasons why. Articles, videos, and additional expert analysis provide must-have information on the innovations and policies shaping Carbonomics and the future of sustainable investing.

The Roundup

In a strategic article published on Monday, the EU chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, depicts the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on world affairs, warning of growing divergences between world players, backsliding in terms of global poverty and strengthening of the authoritarian regimes.

Franco-German cooperation on space policy will reach new levels after the economic ministers of the two countries pledged to work together more closely on securing Europe’s independent access to the stars.

The EU is on course to extend its emission trading scheme to shipping but is yet to decide which voyages should actually be included. New analysis insists that shippers should not try and game the system, as the potential savings on offer are negligible.

Britain readied armed Royal Navy ships to patrol its fishing waters if tempers flare after a “no-deal” Brexit as a make-or-break deadline approached for talks with the European Union.

Increasing the role of loans and guarantees utilised to narrow the disparities between European regions may help combat the misuse of EU funds but cannot replace the role of accountability, transparency and sound domestic institutions.

Notary services from across the bloc have said that the EU should pay attention to which global actors have ‘control and access’ to key technologies used in judicial processes in the ongoing digitalisation of the sector.

The French government is reportedly going to increase its stake in national carrier Air France, in a move that will shore up the airline with up to €5 billion, and has also won EU support for its plan to help Corsair ride out the pandemic.

Look out for…

  • The Commission is expected to adopt its Communication on cybersecurity strategy and forward a package of legislation which includes the Digital Service Act and the Digital Markets Act
  • European Parliament plenary session
  • Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Subscribe to our newsletters