The socio-political landscape of Europe is changing for better or for worse. In the past decade, European countries that once enjoyed their existence as monolithic, homogeneous societies have been subjected to record-breaking amounts of non-European immigration.
In 2005, the Federal Republic of Germany passed an immigration law that defined Germany as an “immigration country,” and according to federal statistics in 2016, over one out of every five German residents has at least partial roots outside the country.
France has historically been a relative hotspot for European migration, and in the 18th and 19th century, most migrants were from Southern American and Western European countries such as Portuguese, Britain, and Spain. In 2008, the French government discovered that out approximately 11.8 million immigrants or children of immigrants, comprising almost 20% of the national population, half were of Maghrebi or Sub-Saharan African descent. Out of the 802,000 children born in France during 2010, over 23% were either foreign-born or had non-European parents.
Austria is a unique country, and although it does possess a discernable foreign-born population (approx. 10%), it has never undergone the dramatic parliamentary introduction of mass immigration that European countries such as Germany have. The Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, or “The Freedom Party of Austria,” (FPO) was founded in 1965 by Anton Reinthaller, a Nazi general, and represnted both Austrian pan-Germanists and national liberals in opposition to socialism and Catholic clericalism.
The party currently holds 38 out of 183 chairs on the Austrian National Council, 13 out of 61 of the Federal Council, and 4 out of 18 of the European Parliament. In the 2016 Austrian presidential election, Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer won the first round of the election, receiving 35.1% of the vote, making that election the Freedom Party’s best ever election result in its history.
The FPO has been berated by many as being “far-right,” “right-wing populist,” and “national conservative.” While an exact label is difficult to pin onto the party (due to some of its leading members referring to themselves as national liberals or “cultural Germans“), its ideological platform represents a drastic shift to the right-wing side of the political spectrum.
The FPO’s political platform includes a hardline stance against foreign immigration, Islam (they have vowed to ban the free distribution of the Koran), and has had an unhappy relationship with the European Union, to say the least.
On October 15, 2017, the FPO delivered one of its strongest performances in today’s election. This Austrian nationalist party stands to become kingmaker in an ultra-conservative coalition after Sebastian Kurz’s People’s Party stormed to victory with around 31 per cent of the vote, according to the latest exit polls.
Last month’s Alternative for Germany Party surged into its country’s legislative body, and the FPO is shaping up to follow suit. Is Euroscepticism leading the way for the lost souls of Europe, and what will the current legislative election hold in store for Austria?
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