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Geopolitics

Underestimate Europe's Extremist Movements At Your Peril

Editorial: From Spain's indignados to Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, fringe groups are gaining strength in Europe. And while they don't tend to share much common ground, together they are posing a region-wide challenge to

Militants of the Greek Nationalist party Golden Dawn (Johan Norberg)
Militants of the Greek Nationalist party Golden Dawn (Johan Norberg)

PARIS - The French chose a change in government on May 6, in an orderly and indisputable way. In Greece, elections on the same day were less clear-cut; and four days later, the country is still without a government. Yes, the two elections were very different, but the differences should not mask similar undercurrents: the rise of fringe parties challenging mainstream politics. It is a trend that has been gaining steam throughout Europe.

In France, 18% of the voters took a stand against European unity and immigration in the first round of the presidential election by voting for Marine Le Pen. Two weeks later, in Greece, 7% of the voters opted for Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that now has 21 seats in the Parliament. The party most notably wants to put land mines along the Turkish border to stop immigration.

In Italy, the anti-political movement "five stars' ("Movimento 5 stelle"), led by the comedian Beppe Grillo, had some success in local elections by campaigning against austerity and corruption. In Germany, the Pirate Party, which fights for free Internet downloads, has burst into politics and is worrying the leading parties on the eve of a major election set for May 13.

These movements have nothing in common. One would be hard pressed, for example, to link the Spanish Indignados movement, born one year ago in Madrid, to xenophobic movements that have existed in Northern Europe and Austria for years.

Nevertheless, whether these movements are far-right, radical left or anti-political, they have the potential to upset traditional political parties, especially those that shouldered the European project decades ago. The weight of these movements is all the more important in the context of the common European challenge: the economic crisis. And Europe's political integration means that today every national election has repercussions across the continent.

It's very tempting for traditional parties to take advantage of these movements by borrowing their ideas. Nicolas Sarkozy's shift towards the right in response to the National Front's increased influence is a good example of the risks of this trend.

It was obviously not a winning strategy. But the challenge from fringe parties remains. No institution or European-wide movement has yet succeeded in responding to this wave of refuseniks. But major parties will have to deal with it as soon as possible if they don't want to be overwhelmed.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo - Johan Norberg

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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