Violent Europe: an attempted assassination and a convention that promotes hate speech

Robert Fico, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, has gone down in history as the first leader of a European Union (EU) country to have suffered an assassination attempt. This was the most extreme chapter of a wave of attacks on officials that has been ringing alarm bells for some time. The euro zone is currently undergoing electoral campaigns to elect the 61 parliamentarians of the 720 that make up the European Chamber. It is the most polarized election so far.

Of the twenty-seven countries of the European Union, Germany is one of those that registers the most attacks. According to the Federal Police, physical or verbal violence against officials or elected representatives has almost doubled in five years. During 2023, 2,790 crimes were committed. The murder of Walter Lübcke in 2019, a pro-refugee German politician who died from a shot to the head at the hands of a neo-Nazi fanatic, still underlies the collective memory.

Fico was wounded in the chest and abdomen in an attack in Gandlov.

Something similar is happening in France where offensives have been increasing by 30 percent, year after year, since 2021. The Netherlands, Italy, Greece or Spain are not immune from this wave either. This is related to the fact that European politics has gone through an increase in polarizing discourses, which come from extreme forces, whether from the left or the right. Incendiary proclamations fragment the population, They promote hatred and attack the peace that democracy proposes..

Depending on the country, both the ruling party and the opposition began to use increasingly uninhibited, aggressive and worldly political language in their speeches that disqualifies the opponent. In this way, they legitimize violence and delegitimize their opponent who becomes an enemy to be destroyed. Is Aggression dominates the scene, to the detriment of the free exchange of ideas – which in turn many use as a badge to say the most aberrant things – which is the basis of the democratic system.

In the case of Slovakia, the dying prime minister is a complex politician. He defines himself as a social democrat, although he defends openly xenophobic and misogynistic positions. Fico has shown a critical stance towards excessive European integration. He has also questioned the bloc’s immigration policies: “We don’t want to see a Muslim community in Slovakia.” He is an ally of the questioned Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán and – contrary to the EU – he positions himself closer to Russia than to Ukraine.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. (EFE/EPA/Archive/OLIVIER MATTHYS).

Unlike his previous mandates, in this round Fico achieved victory in October 2023, with a more radical speech. The populist, anti-Western and nationalist president, He went so far as to call journalists “anti-Slovak prostitutes” and enemies of the nation. He has also attempted to reform state media, which critics say would give him full executive control over public television and radio. This added to his attempt to eliminate a special anti-corruption prosecutor -who investigated his close circle- generated massive demonstrations.

Although social polarization is not an exclusively European phenomenon. It was put on the radar during the presidency of Donald Trump and has manifested itself in various parts of the world. This social fury has increased after the trauma of the covid-19 pandemic which facilitated the radicalization of ideas and the rise of the anti-vaccine movement. In this environment conspiracy theories and hate speech proliferated.

Meanwhile, this weekend the global extreme right gathered in Madrid at the event “Europa Viva 24” organized by the Spanish party Vox. This new right raises the flag, and tries to legitimize itself, with anti-democratic speeches and with precepts that are a dangerous breeding ground in society. Political polarization is the fuel from which it feeds since it paves the way for them, among so much dust they raise, to show themselves as enlightened, messianic and savior beings fulfilling a mission from the forces of heaven.

Javier Milei, with the leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal. (@VOX_ES – Archive)

In this political event, Argentine President Javier Milei is the main star. The libertarian has not hesitated to use resources from the national state, and skip all types of diplomatic protocol, to visit a country without meeting its highest authorities, as established by customary norms. The president’s main objective is not to strengthen relations between countries but promote himself as a leader of the global right. Lying is among the rules, as was demonstrated in his book “The Way of the Libertarian,” which the publisher decided to take out of circulation.

This event directed by the president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, It is attended by the president of Chega and Portuguese deputy, André Ventura, the minister of Diaspora Affairs of Israel and combat against Anti-Semitism, Amichai Chikl, and the Chilean deputy and leader of the Republican Party, José Antonio Kast. The president of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the French extreme right, Marine Le Pen, and the president of Hungary, Victor Orban, are also part of the movement.

The third annual edition aims to stimulate the right-wing voter base – and potential electorate – with a demonstration of international alliances. The issues that are put on the table promote intolerance and hatred and they are already known: messages of rejection of migrants, sexual diversity, abortion, women’s rights, labor rights, etc. These leaders reaffirm a Western ideology in which they proclaim themselves European patriots and defenders of the legacy of nations with Judeo-Christian roots.

Javier Milei presented his book “The path of the libertarian” in Madrid.

In Spain, when Santiago Abascal says things like “There will be a time when the people will want to hang Pedro Sánchez by his feet,” or when he calls his people to lay siege to the socialist headquarters with screams and death threats, he is calling, without preamble , to violence. He is creating potential assassinations in his own country. This weekend the president of the Spanish government wrote on his social networks: “The far-right international meets today in Spain with Abascal and Milei at the head. And they do it here because Spain represents what they hate: feminism, social justice, labor dignity, welfare state and democracy.”

Meanwhile, the Argentine leader barely arrived in the Iberian Peninsula and said phrases like “the cancer of socialism”, the “aberrant” social justice and the “reds”. They are not surprising. They are true to their style and follow the characteristics described above. When Milei calls opponents “shitty lefties”, “parasites”, “garbage”, or when he says “Feminism is a cancer”, “The State is an enemy of progress” or “Abortion is murder”, no is calling for social peace. She is inciting hatred and intolerance.

All these sayings and facts that have been detailed lead, without forks and irremediably, to a phrase of popular wisdom that reads “He who sows hatred reaps storms.”

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