Posted on April 20, 2007

Ultranationalist Fervor Hits Europe

Jamey Keaten, AP, April 20, 2007


The same issues preoccupying the Frenchjobs, immigration, integrating a large and restive Muslim minorityhave catapulted many of Mr. Le Pen’s views into the mainstream, with leading candidates both left and right co-opting elements of his ideas.

It’s a phenomenon seen across Europe: Deep anxieties over security and unemployment have fed a sharp shift to the right, forcing mainstream politicians to embrace policies that just a few years ago would have seemed the exclusive terrain of ultranationalist forces.

These policies mainly aim to reassert the primacy of the home culture with language requirements, citizenship tests and tougher criteria for prospective immigrants.

In the Netherlands, a powerful nationalist movement sprang up around charismatic Pim Fortuyn and won a place in the coalition, only to fall apart after Mr. Fortuyn was assassinated in 2002. But his ideas live on in the citizenship tests and deportations of asylum-seekers, which are now Dutch policy.

In October, Austria’s two rightist parties won more than 15 percent of the votefar short of the stunning 26.9 percent that firebrand Joerg Haider received in 1999 but enough to trouble the moderate majority.

The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, formed only 12 years ago, is the third-largest faction in Denmark’s parliament. Far-right parties also made electoral strides last year in Sweden and Belgium.

In Germany, far-right parties remain a fringe movement, but hold seats on three regional legislatures in the formerly Communist east. Officials say crimes by far-right groups and attacks against foreigners rose 16 percent last year.

Tony Blair, Britain’s center-left prime minister, campaigned two years ago on the slogan “Your country’s borders protected,” while his conservative rivals proposed HIV and tuberculosis tests for immigrants. A fringe nationalist party scored well in local elections in May.

The hard right does not appear to be drastically bleeding supporters as the center co-opts its agenda. On the contrary, many nationalist groups appear to be enjoying a resurgence.

In France, 78-year-old Mr. Le Pen is gloating as front-runners Nicolas Sarkozy on the right and Segolene Royal on the left hoist two of his pet issuesimmigration and national identityto center stage.

Thirty percent of respondents in a poll by TNS Sofres published in December said they agreed with Mr. Le Pen’s positionsthe highest figure since 1996.