European societies are facing a growing challenge of far-right extremism.
Coming out of the first round of the presidential elections, The extreme right, led by the Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen, scored the second-best results of the election gathering 7,7 million votes. Throughout the last few years, Front National have experienced increased support in European, municipal and regional elections. It gave the Front National the credibility it needed to claim themselves France’s first political party.
Front National´s electoral weight and the popularity of the extreme right´s ideals have been growing at all levels of society. As a result, France’s higher education institutions and youth organisations have suffered. Recently, many universities saw members of far and extreme right groups enter their committees and even win the student vice-presidency of one French university. In Lyon, for example, the Groupe Union Défense (GUD) have been guilty of many aggressions, acts of violence and spreading fascist propaganda, while still experiencing growing support within the university. In March, the Front National announced the creation of their own student union so-called Collectif Marianne.
Although extreme right movements try to give themselves a respectable appearance, they still advocate racism, xenophobia, sexism and LGBT+-phobia. They have even used women’s rights to excuse islamophobia, national preferences when it comes to better working conditions and social assistance for citizens, justifying stopping all kinds of immigration, and even limiting press freedom.
However, most frightening is the gullibility of the European political sphere to these growing extreme right concepts and ideas. Racist, xenophobic, misogynous, LGBT+-phobic declarations have greatly shaped the European political landscape throughout the last few years. In December 2015 in France, François Hollande wanted to make double nationality for bi-national citizens possible, while the extreme right wanted to suppress social security for foreigners. In 2016, the Danish government approved a law, which allowed asylum seekers to keep up to €1340 in cash and valuables, and stated that they would seize any exceeding wealth in order to pay for their stay.
In December 2016, the Austrian far right party FPÖ almost managed to get its candidate elected as President of the Austrian Republic. The ruling socialist-Christian democratic in Austria coalition decided to fine asylum seekers who stayed in country after having their asylum rejected up to €15.000 and even in some cases sentenced rejected asylum seekers who did not leave Austria immediately to six weeks in prison.
In Italy, in April 2017, the Parliament approved a decree of the Ministry of Interior. The new regulation re-established centers for repatriation and eliminated the right of asylum seekers to appeal against decisions on their status. Moreover, the decree allocated 19 million euros for the execution of expulsions. On 3 May 2017, the police blocked the entrances of Milan’s central station and raided all the migrants, escorting them to the police office to control their papers. The same day, in Rome, a police raid against migrant street-sellers ended with the death of one individual. This repressive approach, especially when it comes to asylum seekers, is to be condemned.
For these reasons, ESU commits to counter racism, xenophobia authoritarianism and hate-speech. As established in the Statement on the role of education in promoting peaceful and cohesive societies, ESU supports all student unions in challenging hate speech, far right propaganda and extreme right groups.
ESU encourages all societies not to make room for intolerant discourses and actively tackling existing hateful discourses marginalizing groups in society ESU also believes that it is important to abandon austerity politics targeting already underprivileged groups in society.
Lastly, ESU supports the students in France in their fight to counter intolerance, authoritarianism and hate speech in society as well as throughout the election campaign that will shape French society and the conditions for students for the years to come.