Populists Keep Winning the Messaging War in Europe Over Migration

Populists Keep Winning the Messaging War in Europe Over Migration
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, right, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a news conference following a meeting in Milan, Italy, Aug. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Luca Bruno).

European leaders gathered twice last year to try and develop an EU-wide approach to the still-divisive issues of migration and the integration of refugees, and both times they failed to reach any consensus, yet again. Building on public anxieties around migration, far-right populist parties succeeded in sowing more discord across the continent, with many centrist and liberal politicians having difficulty formulating a response.

The effectiveness of these anti-migrant and even nativist campaigns was evident with the controversy over the adoption of the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration last month in Morocco. The compact initially enjoyed support from all U.N. members, including the United States, when its drafting process was launched in 2016. But the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the compact more than a year ago, claiming that numerous provisions in the agreement were “inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies.”

The American stance on what was supposed to be a landmark U.N. migration pact opened the door for far-right voices in Europe to condemn the agreement too. Following the lead of Hungary’s anti-immigrant prime minister, Viktor Orban, who was already a vocal opponent during the negotiation process, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pulled out of the compact last October. In an apparent bow to his coalition partners, the far-right Freedom Party, Kurtz said the deal would only encourage more migration.

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