Far right predicts "awakening of the people"
The big names in Europe's right-wing populist scene gathered in Koblenz, Germany, on the weekend. Frauke Petry of the Alternative for Germany was also present, marking the first time a representative of the party has attended such an event. This will be the year in which "the people of continental Europe awaken", Front National leader Marine Le Pen declared. She may soon suffer a major setback, commentators observe, and call for new alliances to combat the far right.
Nationalists will fall flat on their face
It won't be long before the triumphal march of Europe's leading right-wing populists is brought to a halt after their battle cry in Koblenz, Tages-Anzeiger speculates:
“[Dutch] Prime Minister Mark Rutte has categorically rejected a coalition with Wilders. … So Geert Wilders' storm against the 'establishment' is likely to fall flat. A similar fate awaits Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections. The field of candidates there is so wide that the leader of the Front National can't even be sure that on 23 April she will secure a place in the first round of the elections. It is entirely possible that the runoff vote two weeks later will come down to a classic contest between a candidate of the conservative right and the left. And according to all the predictions Le Pen doesn't stand a chance against an anti-nationalist coalition. The prospects for the German chancellor and her Christian Democrats in the elections on 24 September are also better than they have been in a long time.”
New alliances needed to combat far right
Sigmar Gabriel, head of the German SPD, Simone Peter, leader of the Green Party, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and several other politicians all participated in the protest meeting in Koblenz. But the fight must go on, the left-leaning daily Avgi declares:
“The meeting was timely, but it's not enough just to stand out in the cold for a couple of hours in the name of a 'diverse, open and social Europe of the 21st century' without changing one's own policies a whit. In most countries of the Eurozone much of the population has the impression that things are moving in the wrong direction, both in their country and in Europe. ... To prevent their policies from ending up as nothing more than empty words, these political forces must build alliances. To that extent the summit of the countries of Southern Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta) on Saturday in Lisbon and their promise to work on a 'vision of Europe' are of decisive importance. And an answer to the far right.”
EU menaced with collapse
Despite the anger over the new US president we shouldn't lose sight of the dangerous trends on this side of the Atlantic, El Periódico de Catalunya warns after the convention of the European right-wing populist parties in Koblenz:
“The year 2017 was baptised at the meeting as the 'year of the patriots', in which after the turnaround effected by the Brexit and Trump's triumph in America the 'revolution on the continent' would follow. … The explosive cocktail produced by the radical populism of the new US government, the increasingly blatant anti-Europeanism of the far right on this side of the Atlantic and the still undigested shock of the Brexit could result in a backwards step in history with fatal consequences. It is difficult to imagine that the EU could disintegrate but it is entirely possible that the accumulation of populist nationalisms could lead to its unavoidable collapse.”
Don't let the right dictate events in 2017
Ever since the right-wing populists formed an alliance in 2013 they have seen their support grow tremendously, taz points out:
“Naturally this dynamic is well known: the AfD's success in individual states, the Brexit referendum, Trump's election. It's clear that there is a content element that is common to all these developments. Progressive forces are quite rightly worried about the coming year's half-finished script with elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany yet to come. … The message from Koblenz is clear: the Petrys, Wilders and Le Pens are more than serious in their intentions. And they should be taken just as seriously - on the basis of a thorough analysis. Which also means not immediately seeing their rhetoric about the 'awakening peoples of Europe' as the start of a new wave of fascism but as sign of a scary level of insensitivity to such images.”