This research was published in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies

Far-right political parties are ambivalent rather than sceptical about Europe, analysis shows

Far right political parties have acted in an ambivalent rather than overtly sceptical way towards Europe, analysis shows.

It is misleading to describe these politicians as only Eurosceptic, according to the research, because their policies have ranged from support to opposition.

Classing the far right political groups of Europe as Eurosceptic does not fully capture the complexity of their different positions, the study says. Understanding their policies as driven instead by ambivalence can help to show why in spite of their nationalism, far right parties have collaborated across borders.

Dr Marta Lorimer, from the University of Exeter, examined the different positions on Europe developed by the Italian Social Movement (MSI) and the French Front National (now Rassemblement National) between 1978 and 2017.

Dr Lorimer analysed 102 pieces of party literature produced between 1978 and 2017 by the Movimento Sociale Italiano and the Front National (1978 until 2017 for the FN and 1978 until 1995 for the MSI. The documents include party manifestoes, interviews, speeches, opinion articles published in party newspapers and magazines by different party figures, and, in the case of the MSI, congress motions.

Dr Lorimer said: “Having a more accurate picture of the far right’s approach to Europe can help explain recent trends such as the transnational collaboration of far right parties.

“While far-right parties frequently oppose the EU, ideological flexibility, the malleability of European integration and the changing nature of Europe also lead them to display support towards certain aspects of it and towards Europe as a civilization.”

For example, the Front National expressed favourable views on European unity in the 1970s and early 1980s. Following the introduction of the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty the FN changed radically its assessment of the EU, becoming opposed to the organisation and calling for “Frexit” in its 2002, 2012 and 2017 manifestos.

This research, published in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, shows both parties displayed support for a European civilization, but the FN frequently pitted this European civilization against the political project of the EU.

While both parties considered that Europe as an endangered continent, the MSI viewed European unity as a potential response to danger and further integration to be in Italy’s national interest. The FN shifted from supporting the EU as a protection from external threats to seeing it as a threat to France.

From the 1990s onwards, the FN viewed the EU as a stepping stone towards globalism. This was never a central issue for the MSI, which was less critical towards the EU. The MSI viewed the EU as form of defence from the outside world and a way for Italy to retrieve a voice in international relations. The party believed a common European defence that could return Europe, and Italy with it, to a leading position in the world.

Until the mid-1980s, the FN believed Europe needed to become a Nation to defend itself against external dangers, but later believed it hampered the legitimate interests of the nation by limiting its sovereignty and “dissolving” its identity

Date: 19 February 2021

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