Continental nationalism has been reinforced this week. Given its democratic construct and inclusivity, the European Union, grappling with the migrants’ challenge for the past few years, will perhaps have to bolster its efforts to countenance xenophobia and hatred.
Trends in the elections in Italy last month, the impressive performance of the far-right AfD in Germany, and this week’s victory of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, indeed his third successive term, point to a distinct upswing of the nationalist forces.
Altogether, the electoral trends across a swathe of Europe are an anathema to those who believe in liberal, tolerant, open politics in a part of the world that was once the fountainhead of democracy and its attendant libertarian certitudes.
As head of the party and government, Mr Orban has made himself still more conspicuous with his profound contempt for tolerance and pluralism. And yet he has been able to cling onto power. No wonder the outcome of the elections in Hungary has set alarm bells ringing across the Continent. The experiences of Italy and Hungary are both the same and different not the least because they reflect diverse histories and cultures. Fear of immigration is the thread that runs through the two countries ~ a potent factor that has buttressed nationalist sentiment.
The general perception of many Italians and Hungarians is that their countries are the “frontline states” of the European Union. It thus comes about that Italy has absorbed refugees and migrants by land from the east and by sea from the south, across the Mediterranean. Hungary has erected a 155-km barrier to check crossings from the Balkans. It is palpable, therefore, that the migrants’ journey without maps has influenced the election in Hungary, reinforcing the might of the likes of Mr Orban. There is a degree of politics involved in border control; this has over time assumed an ideological connotation, indeed a culture war against infiltration.
Only Angela Merkel of Germany appears to be a little accommodating in the midst of an increasing tendency in Europe to project immigration as a threat to the Continent’s predominantly Christian character. It is hard not to wonder whether this is intrinsically an attack on non-white migrants from predominantly Muslim countries.
Mr Orbán is at his abrasive worst when he describes refugees from Syria as “Muslim invaders”. In the heady era of globalisation, the leader of the ruling Fidesz party tends to play on economic insecurity and cultural disorientation. Unmistakable is the dilemma of the European Union.
It would be useful to recall that it was founded to counter the prospect of continental nationalism. To reassert its moral purpose might now be construed as a repudiation of the democratic verdicts in member-states. Racist politics has taken hold at the grassroots level. Hungary has this week buttressed the trend.