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    'EU Policy as a Whole is Turning to the Right' - Political Commentator

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    Deputy Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is reportedly meeting with other European right-wing populist parties in Milan next week, in an attempt to form a right-wing bloc before the upcoming EU elections.

    Sputnik spoke to the foreign commentator at Nederlands Dagblad, Jan Van Benthem on how successful he may be, and what this says about the success of the right across Europe at the moment.

    Sputnik: What do you think the chances are of Salvini succeeding in the formation of a populist block of parties before the European elections, given the differing policies of the parties and the complicated web of alliances already at play inside the European parliament?

    Jan Van Benthem: Well this is not the first attempt and as such there is already a kind of league — the ENF — Europe of Nations and Freedom, consisting of Salvini's own party, Lega, but also the FPO from Austria was in it, the Polish congress of New Right; an ex-UKIP member from the UK, Janice Atkinson was in it; an ex-AfD, Marcus Pretzell from the Blau Partei was a member; the Flemish Vlaams Belang, Flemish Interest from Belgium, the party of Freedom from the Netherlands Geert Wilders and the Front National, Marine le Pen, from France. So this is an existing combination in the European parliament.

    Sputnik: We have seen Hungary's membership of the European People's Party suspended and there has been talk of Fidesz looking to join such a right-wing alliance, do you think we could see that happen given the similar values these parties share?

    Jan Van Benthem: Suspended, but not ended. And it's very doubtful if Orban will go to Milan and go to a new set of right-wing parties because somehow he really doesn't want to skip the connection with the European People's Party and if that would be the case, you also have the ECR, which is the European combination of conservative and reform parties which includes for instance, the Dutch Christian Union and other right parties, and where Thierry Baudet from Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands also wants to participate in.

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    So that might also be an option for Orban.

    Sputnik: Is it inevitable that right-wing populist parties are only going to gain more and more support in Europe as time goes on?

    Jan Van Benthem: Well if it's inevitable — that's the question. We have seen now for years that about 20 percent of people who vote are voting for right-wing parties. That's the case in Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France etc. But that also seems to be more or less the limit. Forum for Democracy, for example, is the largest party in the Netherlands but doesn't get more than 20 percent of the ballot. So there is a kind of maximum for this, but it divides between the maximum. You see the party for Freedom of Geert Wilders lost something in the Netherlands but Forum for Democracy won seats. So if it will continue to grow, that is a question.

    But what is really the case is that the policy in Europe, in general, is turning more to the right. One example is a week ago, European countries have decided in Brussels that Operation Sofia, which is the Frontex operation in the Mediterranean against immigrants, will cease to have ships on the sea because according to international law on the seas, if they see ships in distress they have to rescue them. And they don't want to have any European naval ship rescuing immigrants any more. So every European naval ship in Operation Sophia has been withdrawn from the Mediterranean since April 1st.

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    They have moved to the right also to stop the rise of these parties. So yes these parties [right-wing]have had a large influence on the policies of other parties. But also this example has raised questions: where do we stop? What is still a human policy? Is it human that Europe withdraws all its ships from the Mediterranean with the sole purpose that they cannot rescue people any more? That has led to questions in the Netherlands and you will see the possible start-up of counter-movements which is also given more strength by the Brexit drama in London.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Jan Van Benthem and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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