Has the EU forgotten it was the product of anti-fascist ideals? The question may sound absurd to anyone not following the latest political developments. But the situation in Austria is cause for concern, write Guillaume Balas, Sergio Cofferati, Curzio Maltese and Dimitrios Papadimoulis.
Guillaume Balas and Sergio Cofferati are MEPs with the S&D group, while Curzio Maltese and Dimitrios Papadimoulis represent GUE/NGL.
If you compare the EU’s reaction to the current surge of Austria’s extreme right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) with the reaction to the inclusion in government of the xenophobic party led by Jörg Haider back in 2000, you might be less surprised.
Fifteen years ago, Haider’s accession to government caused a wave of protest and disapproval across Europe. Both conservatives and left-wingers condemned the move and quickly proceeded to imposing sanctions against the “democratic monster” of Vienna – notably the French government where Chirac and Jospin struggled to agree on many other issues.
Criticism from the centre-right was even harsher at times, like José Maria Aznar’s, who wanted Wolfang Schüssels’ centre-right party kicked out from the EPP group as a consequence of its alliance with the fascist.
On 24 April, they obtained a much greater victory: it won the first round of the presidential elections with more than 35% of the vote, making its candidate, Norbert Hofer, the likely winner of the second round against Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen.
The EU’s reaction has been weak, almost null. Press officers have informed the media that comments should not be made lest “interfering with the sovereign politics of other nations”. They didn’t seem to care at the time of Greece’s sovereign debt crisis last year: European authorities and main national political leaders from European countries interfered heavily with the vote before the general elections and the referendum.
Yet, unlike Hofer, Alexis Tsipras does not go around with a gun in his pocket as a show of support of self-defence and never proposed to put up walls around the EU.
It feels like European leaders apply a sort of double standards, turning a blind eye on the very ones that should be kept in check. The cases of Hungary and Poland are there to confirm this trend; journalists opposing the government are silenced and European institutions do nothing about it.
No wonder then, if rules concerning European party financing sources as adopted by the EP bureau made possible the award of €400,000 to the Alliance for Peace and Freedom, a group of neo-fascist parties that includes Italy’s Forza Nuova, Greece’s Golden Dawn and the German NPD, as well as the feeding of Europa Terra Nostra, its sister foundation.
Members of the European Parliament gathered more than 200 signatures to obtain a verification of the respect for the European principles by the Alliance for Peace and Freedom. This process of verification is undergoing and we hope it will be successfully concluded.
According to the relevant regulation, Europeans parties seeking to be eligible to the funds have to respect “in their statute as well as in their actions” the “principles of liberty, democracy, human rights, fundamental freedom and rule of law”.
Some members of mainstream right-wing and left-wing political parties – be it accidentally or in bad faith – have tried to conflate the issues of fascist political movements and criticisms of the neoliberal European project. As if criticising the troika could be on a par with Holocaust denial, or the proposal of outlawing political parties as the programme of one of the parties member of the Alliance for Peace and Freedom suggests.
All the principles and ideas on which the EU is moored are a product of anti-fascist culture and struggles. From the Manifesto of Ventotene, written by Altiero Spinelli with Ernesto Rossi and Ursula Hirschmann during their Mussolini-imposed exile, all the way to the creation of the Council of Europe and the European Community post-World War II, the glue that was keeping all different political souls together was a shared anti-fascism.
Losing this crucial mooring to the past explains the misery of Europe’s present. That is why it is essential to stand up against the rise of the extreme-right in Austria and to strongly commit ourselves to prevent Parliament funds ending up in the pockets of a party that makes a mockery of our founding values.