BRUSSELS – This Monday, European citizens awoke to a new reality. Across Europe, parties opposed to the European Union, mostly on the far right, were swept into the European Parliament by a wave of voter discontent. In some EU member states, including key countries like the United Kingdom and France, such parties will control the largest blocs of MEPs. And neo-Nazi groups, such as Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary, have made gains that were once unthinkable, just 70 years after their ideological forebears brought decimation to the continent.
Their message is one of disgust with the political class, marked by a visceral anti-European agenda. And, when the extremists take their seats, they are likely to stifle any effort to extricate Europe from its economic woes. The EU, built as a means of reconciling and unifying a fractured continent, could find itself under the control of those who are determined to compromise its very foundations.
Europe’s leaders are wringing their hands in shock and surprise, as if in the aftermath of a natural disaster. “It’s an earthquake,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said of the result, in which Marine Le Pen’s National Front won 25% of the vote, finishing well ahead of the governing Socialists and the mainstream opposition Union for a Popular Movement.
How did Europe get to this point?