As we write, many in Europe are feeling relief after the announcement of the Austrian presidential election, which saw Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beat the nationalist FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer. Exit polls had put the two candidates neck-and-neck, with the real possibility that Europe could get its first democratically elected far-right head of state since the end of the Second World War.
Regardless of the result of the election, the amount of support expressed for the populist FPÖ should be worrying for the European antifascist community. Unlike the high levels of support for the populist right expressed, say, in recent European Parliament elections, this cannot be blamed on voter apathy. Turnout was at a relatively high 72.7% (up from 54% in the previous presidential election in 2010), with over 2.2 million voters opting for Hofer. This run-off election comes after Hofer emerged as the most popular candidate in the first round, winning over 1.4 million votes – a three-fold increase on the 481 thousand won by the FPÖ candidate in 2010.
The Austrian case tells the story of the increasing acceptability of far-right politics across Europe, and especially of the surge in support that has accompanied the ongoing European refugee crisis. Even though Hofer failed to win the Austrian presidency, his party’s giant leap in public support highlights the success of the populist right in constructing and promoting a compelling narrative on the issues facing European society today.
As members of the European antiracist and antifascist community, it is our duty to counter this narrative, and present a positive, inclusive vision for Europe. To this end, UNITED recently announced our new campaign #LifeSeekers, and are calling on NGOs and grassroots organisations all over Europe to express their support for this campaign which seeks to challenge the populist narrative on migration and refugees. The campaign originated at our conference in Torino last month, where activists from all over Europe met to discuss ways to deconstruct and counter populist narratives.
It is clear that to tackle the populist right, we need new and creative ways to engage with the public and promote our common vision for an open and inclusive society. To do this, we must be UNITED.
Best greetings and stay UNITED!
News from UNITED
|Calling all NGOs: join UNITED’s #LifeSeekers campaign!
UNITED calls on NGOs and grassrouts groups in Europe to express support for its new campaign #LifeSeekers. Joining the campaign is quick, simple and free. Read more …
|UNITED Network Conference – “Moving Stories: Narratives of Migration Crossing Europe”
On 22-27 April, a European conference took place near Torino, Italy, organised by UNITED for Intercultural Action. Participants representing organisations from all over Europe came together to challenge the current narrative on migration. For more information, read our press release on the conference, or the full report (Days I&II, Day III, Days IV&V).
|UNITED represented at Europe Day celebrations in Budapest
UNITED and the No Hate Speech Movement were represented at celebrations to mark Europe Day on Margit Island in Budapest. Read more …
News from the Network
|PICUM launches child testimonies series
Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) has launched a new series of child testimonies, showing the hardship suffered by young undocumented migrants trying to make a life for themselves in Europe. Read more …
|‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association promotes antidiscrimination values among prison personel
Throughout April and May, ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association has been running a series of workshops with prison workers and volunteers working with inmates in Poland, Hungary and Greece to promote antidiscrimination values in prisons. Read more …
|European solidarity against neo-nazi threats to HateFree culture in Prague
The UNITED network supports the “Prague is not Afraid” demonstration, and demands that the Czech government takes proper action. Read more …
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Any events or activities focusing on topics relevant to the UNITED network can be announced via the online form for publication in UNITED’s online Calendar of Internationalism.
Highlights from the UNITED Website
|How Ukraine Is Dealing With the European Refugee Crisis
Anna Poludenko-Young looks at the issue of refugee-reception in Ukraine, and examines the prospects for Syrian refugees arriving in the country. Read more …
|Migrant Crisis or Poverty Crisis?
A new briefing by Global Justice Now looks at the framing of the narrative around the influx of migrants and refugees in Europe, sets out the underlying causes for this mobility, and demands states to protect and expand the right to freedom of movement. Read more …
|UNHCR launches global refugee shelter campaign
UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, has launched a global campaign to raise funds from the private sector in order to fill a massive gap in funds needed to provide shelter for millions of refugees. Read more …
|Report shows level of human trafficking in the EU
A report newly published by the European Commission shows over 15,000 cases of human trafficking reported from 2013-14. The actual number is likely substantially larger. Read more …
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|June will see the launch of UNITED’s #LifeSeekers campaign. Make sure you follow UNITED on social media for full updates.UNITED will soon announce the details and open the nomination process for the next UNITED network conference – stay tuned for full details!|