Sunday, July 21, 2024

Letter: Far-right assault on the EU must be done from the outside

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An admiring reader of Martin Sandbu’s comments may be forgiven for carefully combing his every word.

In “A cordon sanitaire against the far right may not work” (Opinion, July 1) he argues for a more friendly approach towards this rising force, as indefinitely keeping it away from government would contradict the sacred principles of liberal democracy. I will restrain from the double-edged point that democracy may well be used to subvert it, although the last century abundantly seems to prove it.

Sandbu writes that “the truth is that Europe’s far-right parties are highly het­ero­gen­eous. That is why they punch below their weight in the European par­lia­ment. Their lack of coher­ence has allowed the centre to ignore them.”

It is not so much that they are “a threat to democracy itself” (as Sandbu also hints), as that they are a threat to the EU, where the importance of France cannot be overlooked. Incoherence is indeed assured, it being impossible to hammer different strains of sovereignism, aka nationalism, into one mould. Every sovereigntist hosts some kind of minority from some other sovereigntist. What a union could they build!

The reason why the rising far right cannot rule the EU lies in the principle of non-contradiction, vital for any institution. To destroy the very foundations of the union, which it would happily do, the far right needs to do literally nothing: just stop any of the many changes that the EU needs to survive and possibly prosper at this turning point of history. Too much political and institutional capital has been invested in the EU to let them take the helm and make it irrelevant.

In this case, Lyndon B Johnson’s famous statement that it’s “better to have enemies inside the tent pissing out, than to have them outside the tent pissing in” does not apply, as they would be flooding the inside.

If Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, Giorgia Meloni, Viktor Orbán and their kin in the far right want to send the European project into reverse gear, they must keep on assailing it from the outside.

Salvatore Bragantini
Milan, Italy

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