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above: Greek police and soldiers trying to deter migrants as they attempt to enter Greece from Turkey in Kastanies, Greece on March 2, 2020 (Vasilis Ververidis/Alamy Stock Photo)

Society & Culture

The Virus Sidelines Europe's Right Wing

COVID-19 has rendered Europe’s right-wing parties all but obsolete, at least in the near-term. Nationalist parties like Alternative für Deutschland (AfD, “Alternative for Germany”) and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, “Party for Freedom”) had built their electoral clout upon anti-migration sentiment. But the centrists have robed themselves in new patriotic colors, robbing the nationalists in Western Europe of any substantial role to play.

As the virus swept across the European Union, national governments quickly rediscovered the need to put their own citizens first. “European Solidarity”—the Eurocrats’ beloved mantra—was an early casualty of the pandemic. Brussels has been completely sidelined during the crisis.

National governments are calling the shots. Makeshift border controls were thrown up overnight, and they are unlikely to come down again any time soon. Thus, the EU’s Schengen Area of passport-free travel has effectively been abolished. Any discussion of taking in more migrants from North Africa and the Middle East is unthinkable. The wealthier northern countries are refusing to help the poorer southern countries like Italy and Spain, which have been hardest hit by the virus. 

Europe’s nationalist right has long declared that the EU project is loved only by a small technocratic elite. Ordinary citizens...

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