Attack in France Fuels Anti-Immigrant Parties on Europe’s Right

Alison Smale and Stephen Castle, New York Times, July 16, 2016

The devastating attack in Nice, carried out by a Tunisian man living in France, came at a moment of political ferment in Europe and seems likely to give even more fuel to anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim movements that are challenging established parties across the region.

The third major attack in France in 17 months–a murderous truck ride by a disturbed loner claimed by the Islamic State as a “soldier” in its war on the West–was used by far-right movements and anti-immigration, populist parties within the political mainstream as fodder for their arguments that Islam poses a mortal danger to European societies. {snip}

“This is a war,” Geert Wilders, the Dutch right-winger who is gaining in his country’s polls, said on Twitter on Friday. “And it will not stop until we close our borders for Islam and de-Islamize our societies. No more terror. No more Islam!”

In France, next year’s presidential contest is already in full swing. The unpopular incumbent, François Hollande, a Socialist, is facing intensifying questions about his handling of the nation’s security and electoral challenges from both the center-right and the far-right National Front. On Friday, the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, said Mr. Hollande had done “absolutely nothing” of substance to protect France from Islamic terrorism.

Germany and Austria both have elections coming that will test the strength of anti-immigrant parties. Right-leaning populism has also picked up strength across much of Central and Eastern Europe, especially since a migrant crisis last year brought more than a million asylum seekers to the Continent. In all of those places, the Nice attack quickly rippled through the political discourse.


A recent survey from the Pew Research Center showed that the refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism were becoming intertwined in the minds of many Europeans.

In eight of the 10 European nations covered, more than half of those surveyed said they believed that the presence of refugees–mostly from Syria, Iraq and other poor and war-torn Muslim nations–increased the likelihood of terrorism in their country. Fears were highest in Hungary and Poland.


As the grisly details in Nice became clear, Poland’s interior minister swiftly blamed “decades of multi-culti policy” and those “who lit up the Eiffel Tower” after earlier attacks in Paris.

“They haven’t learned anything from terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, when those in power just burst into tears,” the minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, told Polsat News, a private TV channel. “We need to focus on guaranteeing people’s safety.”

That is best done, he argued, by emulating Poland and Hungary, keeping migrants out and preventing crime.

“We, unlike Western Europe, don’t experience such problems; we don’t have districts ruled by a different law than Polish law; we don’t have no-go zones that Polish police cannot enter,” Mr. Blaszczak said, alluding to debunked reports of such areas in Western Europe.


That vote is scheduled for Oct. 2, the same day that neighboring Austria will hold a rerun of its presidential election. That contest pits a former Green Party leader against a far-right politician, Norbert Hofer, who could become the first rightist elected head of state in Europe since 1945.

Even if Mr. Hofer does not prevail, his Freedom party is still No. 1 in opinion polls in Austria, well ahead of the mainstream parties that have governed Austria since 1945 but were eliminated in the first round of presidential voting in April.


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