Normalisation of far right discourse (Buzzwords of European Affairs 6/8)

The newly elected European Parliament faces a challenging composition of factions and parties. Forming progressive majorities will be more difficult than before. Despite this, and for this very reason, now is the right moment to emphasize the unique strength of the European project. It's also crucial to address the pressing issues it must tackle to continue fulfilling its promise of peace and prosperity. With our small project ”Buzzwords in European Affairs” we would like to bring you closer topics which are currently making the rounds in Europe. What are the actual meanings of these often dropped terms? What are the issues behind, and why are they so important for Europe? And what are social democratic actors in Europe saying about them?

The normalization of far-right discourse means the gradual acceptance and integration of right extremist ideologies and rhetoric into mainstream society, eroding social taboos and fostering tolerance for once-fringe ideas.

In many European countries, it can be observed that center right parties show an increased willingness to align with the extreme right. There are obvious cases such as the Austrian right-wing coalition under chancellor Kurz, the current cooperation of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in the Netherlands to form a government with the involvement of Geert Wilders or the ideas of Manfred Weber and Ursula von der Leyen to cooperate with certain far right forces. Though it is not just about the willingness to cooperate with far-right forces that lead to a higher acceptance of them, it is also about taking over their narratives and rhetoric that is strengthening their role.

In the election campaign, Social Democrats brought forward that they are the ones who want to govern in order to solve genuine problems, while pointing out the opportunistic nature of the discourse propagated by centrist and far-right factions. The Party of European Socialists also declared that there will be “no cooperation with the far-right”. Though within the European Social Democrats parties there are also discussions about how to refrain from attempting to emulate the strategies and rhetoric of right-wing parties and regain confidence in their core values instead, which stand in stark contrast to the ideologies of the fascist and anti-social right-wing movement.

It will be interesting to observe how the European agenda will evolve with the newly elected European Parliament, which has shifted to the right. The so-called 'grand coalition' between the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and the liberal Renew Europe group secured a narrow majority. However, this majority will, most likely, not suffice to re-elect Ursula von der Leyen as Commission President, so the elephant in the room is if they will give up the firewall  against the radical right to elect a president, paying the high price of leading to a greater integration of some far-right forces into the political mainstream. Even if this will not occur and von der Leyen is elected without far-right votes, her willingness to cooperate with the far-right has already caused significant damage by further normalizing their presence and influence.

You should read:


Francesca De Benedetti, Europe’s Left Needs a Wake-Up Call, The Jacobin, 29/11/2023.

John Henley, Adopting rightwing policies ‘does not help centre-left win votes, The Guardian, 10/01/2024.

Kenen Malik, Far-right policies don’t become palatable just because mainstream politicians adopt them, The Guardian, 16/07/2024.

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