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Gloves off in battle for European democracy   

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Gloves off in battle for European democracy       UPDATES INCL RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE 06/06/24

by Edward Steen, Vienna, May 31, 2024

For the new Slovak government, “the era of insolence is over”. The meaning is clear, and menacing. Prime minister Robert Fico and his Kremlin-friendly allies are closing in not just on state tv and radio – currently being dismembered – but on independent media altogether, according to Politico

State takeover (mostly but not just) in eastern Europe threatens to dynamite hard-won press freedoms. Politico’s excellent graphic shows how far the Right has got, especially with huge protests against waves of refugees, fury about rising living costs, and general distrust of governments. 

The newly-invigorated Right-wing populist parties shade into proto-fascists. According to an excellent analysis in the Financial Times the appeal, with relentless TikTok bombardments, is especially to young people fed-up with feminism, climate policies, and worried about their own uncertain future.

The explosive situation is crucially being pushed forward by Russian cyber-hooliganism on the grand scale. Russian money and dirty diplomacy are helping to ensure the European Parliament elections are as damaging to western democracies as possible.

How far will traditional pro-Europeanism help?

On his first state visit to Germany, French President Macron, speaking to a 10,000-strong crowd of pro-Europeans in Dresden, warned of the poison being spread by extremist parties like the scandal-ridden, often openly racist AfD (Alternative for Germany). Dresden is an AfD stronghold.

Needing each other? Sra Meloni with Ursula von der Leyen

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen herself risks being toppled unless she can cement votes from beyond her EPP (Christian Democratic) Group, but risks crossing the line in places as resistance to mass-immigration becomes fiercer. Her friendship with Italian far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni is raising eyebrows.

The danger is that, as the London Guardian reported this week, the Greens will not back her if there are deals with far-right parties.

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