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The new right-wing parties in Europe want to change the EU. They don't agree on how

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  • Right-wing nationalist parties in Europe are gaining momentum, inspired by the populist wave that swept through the United States under former President Donald Trump.
  • Despite their common goals of challenging Brussels' authority and reshaping EU policies on migration and climate change, these parties face significant internal divisions.
  • The potential impact of a right-wing surge in the European Parliament could be significant, but their fractured nature may limit their ability to push through a unified agenda.

Europe is witnessing a significant political shift as right-wing nationalist parties gain momentum across the continent. These parties, inspired by the populist wave that swept through the United States under former President Donald Trump, are poised to make substantial gains in the upcoming European elections. However, despite their shared goals of challenging Brussels' authority and reshaping EU policies on migration and climate change, these parties face significant internal divisions that could hinder their ability to form a cohesive front.

The rise of right-wing nationalism in Europe is not a new phenomenon, but it has gained unprecedented traction in recent years. Parties such as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in France, Matteo Salvini’s Lega in Italy, and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands have capitalized on growing discontent with the EU’s handling of issues like migration, economic policy, and climate regulations. These parties promise to tighten restrictions on asylum seekers, reverse climate rules such as the 2035 ban on sales of new carbon dioxide-emitting vehicles, and reclaim national sovereignty from Brussels.

Internal Divisions and Challenges

Despite their common goals, Europe's right-wing parties are deeply divided on several critical issues, making it challenging to form a united front. For instance, while some parties are staunchly anti-EU, others are more moderate and willing to work within the existing framework to achieve their objectives. This division is evident in the European Parliament, where right-wing parties are split into two main groups: the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Identity and Democracy (ID) group.

The ECR, which includes parties like Poland’s Law and Justice and Italy’s Brothers of Italy, is more experienced in governance and somewhat more cooperative with centrist parties. In contrast, the ID group, which hosts parties like France’s Rassemblement National and Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), is more radical and less willing to compromise. This fragmentation reduces their collective influence and complicates efforts to push through a unified agenda.

Impact on EU Policies

The potential impact of a right-wing surge in the European Parliament could be significant, particularly on issues like migration and climate policy. Right-wing parties have pledged to dismantle Brussels' authority and shift EU policy on these pressing issues. For example, they aim to tighten restrictions on asylum seekers and reverse climate rules like the 2035 ban on sales of new carbon dioxide-emitting vehicles. However, the fractured nature of the right-wing political landscape means that these changes may unfold gradually and face significant opposition from centrist and left-wing parties.

The Trump Effect

The influence of former US President Donald Trump on Europe’s right-wing parties cannot be overstated. Many of these parties view Trump’s presidency as a blueprint for their own political agendas, seeing his assertive, nationalist approach as a model for challenging the status quo in Brussels. This inspiration is evident in their rhetoric and policy proposals, which often echo Trump’s emphasis on national sovereignty and skepticism of international institutions.

Looking ahead, the future of Europe’s right-wing nationalist movement remains uncertain. While these parties are likely to make significant gains in the upcoming elections, their internal divisions and the entrenched power of centrist coalitions in the European Parliament will pose substantial challenges. As Michael Kretschmer, premier of the east German state of Saxony, emphasized, addressing the vacuum that populist parties exploit is crucial for mainstream parties to remain successful.

Europe’s ascendant right-wing parties are poised to reshape the EU, but their inability to agree on a unified approach may limit their effectiveness. The upcoming European elections will be a critical test of their ability to translate electoral gains into tangible policy changes, and the results will have far-reaching implications for the future of the European Union.

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