Guy Verhofstadt:Avrupa’daki popülizm…(english)
Europe’s Populist Fifth Column
The rise of far-right populist parties across Europe in recent years is generally framed as a threat to EU political institutions. But the risks are more severe: By deepening their ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, populist governments also pose a clear and present danger to the physical safety and security of every European citizen.
European security currently rests essentially on the NATO alliance and the principle of mutual defense, and on cooperation between national intelligence services working to prevent violence against people and national assets. But in an era when threats come from domestic extremists as well as hostile state and non-state actors seeking to undermine democratic institutions, this is not enough.
In recent years, intelligence sharing has stymied countless terrorist plots by Islamist extremists and far-right groups. But failures to share intelligence across borders have also resulted in horrendous attacks in Brussels, Manchester, and other cities.
Belatedly, European security services have also begun to focus on the threat that Russia poses to liberal democracy. Over the course of recent election cycles, the Kremlin has proved successful at compromising democratic processes and polluting public discourse. Making matters worse, the rise of far-right populists in key countries is undermining the security apparatus needed to counter Russian aggression. Intelligence sharing requires mutual trust, but the alliances that once provided the basis for trust are under increasing strain.
This is evident across Europe. In Germany, the former head of intelligence recently suggested to Bild that Austria’s intelligence services cannot be trusted so long as the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is a governing coalition partner. After all, in February, the FPÖ interior minister made the extraordinary decision to order a police raid on Austria’s main domestic intelligence agency, removing files and sensitive information.
The FPÖ has had a “cooperation pact” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party since 2016. Most worryingly, the agreement provides for information sharing on issues relevant to bilateral and international relations. If there is reason to believe that information is being transferred from Vienna to Moscow, then Austria could be cut off from a large amount of data essential for tackling extremism and terrorism. And yet that would undermine the security of all Europeans.