Following the attacks in Brussels, Belgium that killed at least 30 people and injured many more, EU heads of state issued a joint statement condemning the attacks and reinforcing “European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant.”
Yet while the European Council urged members to “be united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism,” right-wing party leaders around Europe used the attacks to justify and extend their xenophobic platforms.
In Austria, according to the Wall Street Journal, Heinz-Christian Strache, who serves as one of the leaders of the far right Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), responded to the attacks by saying “[These attacks highlight why] irresponsible mass immigration from the Arab world must be ended once and for all.”
Austrian anti-discrimination organization ZARA has said racism in Austria is higher than ever, with 1201 reported and recorded xenophobic attacks.
With roots dating back to the 1800s, the Freedom Party advocates against EU integration. In the midst of the uncertainty and unrest over Europe’s migration crisis, the FPO managed to win 30 percent of votes in September’s local elections, and sustained that victory in October’s general elections.
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, France’s far-right party, Front National, aggressively pushed their anti-EU, closed border platform, to huge success: In France’s December election, Front National won a record six million votes in the first round.
After the Brussels bombings, party leader Marine Le Pen made a statement to a Canadian crowd after attending meetings in Quebec:
“We need to take seriously the criminal networks of Islamic fundamentalists that exist in our countries… I’ve maintained this position in France for months. And I will repeat the same thing everywhere I go… I don’t get the sense that Islamic fundamentalism is being treated like the threat it really is. And just like I saw in France in the past, here in Canada, whoever condemns Islamic fundamentalism is accused of Islamophobia.”
Marie Le Pen has been impugned for “thinly veiled racist positions” — positions her father, Jean-Marie, pioneered without any veil — and has been outspoken about the deterioration of French society at the hands of multiculturalism.
Under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany has been incredibly welcoming of refugees. After a video of Germans congregating to warmly welcome the first round of refugees, the world began to look to Germany, and in particular Chancellor Merkel, as a beacon of strength amid global disequilibrium.
But in September 2015, when Deutschland Trend conducted a public opinion poll to measure Germans’ opinions towards the resettlement, results showed that German support for migrants had decreased since Merkel’s initial announcement, and Merkel’s approval ratings had plummeted, with one in two Germans believing that Merkel acted inappropriately.
Germans’ growing discontent with Chancellor Merkel and the Christian Democratic Party have yielded a rise in nationalistic sentiment and right-wing politics.
The right wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) — with slogan “Asylum requires borders – Red card for Merkel” — has benefited from increasingly resentment towards Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the migrant crisis has fueled support for the anti-immigration AfD party, and recent public opinion polls show support for the AfD rising while approval for Merkel’s Christian Democratic party decreases.
In the wake of the Brussel attacks, the Alternative Fur Deutschland leader Frauke Petry said “The dream of a colorful Europe is dead, bombed away yet again… Finally accept it. It is time for change!”
In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) has suggested that Europe should close its borders to Muslims to avoid the “Islamic invasion.”
The PVV advocates for strong assimilation into Dutch culture, and prides itself on being Eurosceptic. With many Dutch dissatisfied with the European Union’s agreement to resettle refugees, the PVV is building a base in Holland.
“It is time to act. First of all, we must close our national borders and detain all the jihadists whom we have foolishly allowed to return from Syria. We must also tell people the truth. The cause of all this bloodshed is Islam. We need to de-Islamize the West. That is the only way to safeguard our lives and protect our freedom.”
In a later interview with Breitbart, Wilders continued to denounce the attacks by saying:
“I fear that we ain’t seen nothing yet. According to Europol 3,000 to 5,000 European jihadists, who went to Syria to fight in the ranks of IS and similar terrorist groups, have meanwhile returned to Western Europe. Some of them hid among the hundreds of thousands of Islamic asylum seekers that entered Europe from Asia and Africa… Two of last November’s terrorist in Paris had fought in Syria. So had the terrorist who, last August, attempted to attack the high speed train between Amsterdam and Paris. So had the two terrorists who, in January 2015, massacred the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo. So had the terrorist who, in May 2014, shot four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.”
European Commissioner Hermann Kelly, commented that “[it] is amazing to me that these people can kill people abroad, come here, and then walk free in the centre of Brussels.”
In response to Kelly’s observations, Wilders said “Returned Syria fighters are a huge threat. They are dangerous predators roaming our streets. It is absolutely unbelievable that our governments allow them to return. And it is incredible that, once returned, they are not imprisoned… In the Netherlands, we have dozens of these returned jihadists. Our government allows most of them to freely walk our streets and refuses to lock them up. I demand that they be detained at once. Every government in the West, which refuses to do so, is a moral access have pushed for closed borders if one of these monsters commits an atrocity.”
Wilders is one of many European leaders that have pushed for closed borders in the wake of recent tragedies.
In addition to his public interviews, Wilder tweeted:
“If I become Dutch Prime Minister next year, I’ll crush Islamic terrorism, close our national borders, and De-Islamize The Netherlands. #nomore”
A few hours later, Wilder posted another tweet that directly blamed Islam for the attacks:
“What are the causes of all these terror attacks?
Hungary, like many European countries, responded to the migrant crisis with increased nationalistic sentiments.
According to the Hungarian government’s website, the Orban government sent Hungarians a questionnaire to gage their opinions about the migrant crisis. However, economics professor Gyorgy Malovics explained that the questionnaire was framed in nationalistic terms, as it included warnings of Hebdo-style killings and reminders of Hungarian pride.
NPR reports that over one million Hungarians responded to the survey, and the results have been used to justify Hungary’s strictly anti-migrant policies.
According to Express, Orban’s government commissioned the construction of a 110 foot wall along its shared border with Serbia in order to keep migrants out of Hungary.
Yet Orban’s hardline stance was not enough for some Hungarians. The Jobbik Party is even farther to the right, and 20 percent of Hungarians supported them in April elections, a huge increase in support.
Following yesterday’s attacks, Hungarian Foreign Minister stated that “There is no doubt that illegal migration is behind the rise in terror threat”
Representatives from the Orban government responded to the attacks by saying “We’ve said many times: [the] EU have to fully stop illegal migration,
As Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi agreed to European Union demands to accept refugees amidst funding threats, the Italian public began shifting in favor of the Northern League, which boasts a strong anti-immigrant record.
Northern League leaders Gian Marco Centinaio and Massimiliano Fedriga commented to the Wall Street Journal:
“We are astonished and heartbroken for the lives broken by Islamic hate. We aren’t responding, the E.U. institutions are weak, fragile, helpless and are turning the other way, allowing these massacres.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Northern League has also called for the closure of Mosques.
Photo: Belgian troops on patrol in cenral Brusselsl following Tuesday’s bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler