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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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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Searching For Marianna, A Pregnant Doctor From Mariupol Held Captive By The Russians

We’ve heard about the plight of the soldiers-turned-prisoners from Mariupol. Here are some traces of the disturbing fate of a young female doctor who’s been taken away.

A paper dove reads "Mariupol" at a shelter for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

Paweł Smoleński

"Wait for me, because I will return…"

Marianna Mamonova wrote these words to her family, among the text messages and short phone calls that are the only remaining fragments used to piece together her recent past. We also have a photo of her, posted on Russian websites, where she looks into the lens, gaunt and exhausted, signed with a number like a concentration camp prisoner.

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Until the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mamonova’s biography was available to anyone who wanted to know. She was born in 1991, studied at the Ternopil Medical University, and later at the Kyiv Military Academy. After completing her studies, she was sent to work in the coastal city of Berdiansk. Her mother says that this is where her daughter's dream came true: She’d always wanted to be a military doctor, and worked in Berdiansk for three years, receiving the rank of officer in the Ukrainian army.

Beginning in 2014, she’d worked stints as a front-line doctor in the Donbas region, and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February she went to war again. This time in Mariupol.

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