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The rise of the radical right in Europe has been a feature of the last decade. While the main characteristics of the far-right narrative have been deeply analyzed, ranging from euroscepticism to anti-immigration discourses, the position of the right-wing political parties on energy has gained less attention.
In the last few years, far-right politicians have become really vocal opponents of any measures that would raise the cost of carbon and fossil-intensive energy consumption while pursuing climate targets. With the huge effects of the war in Ukraine on energy markets, right-wing parties found a new political tool in order to attract voters who see rising energy bills as a sensitive issue. Economically vulnerable people, already scared by the cost of globalization and migration on their security and social stability, can become targets of new campaigns from radical right politicians, who can blame EU policies on energy and climate neutrality for the high inflation rates, while depicting these ambitious programs as a threat to middle and lower-income households.
Energy transitions, in this way, become a driver for inequality, a top-down decision that affects mainly those who already suffer from the cost of living crisis. In some countries, the radical right promoted nuclear energy production as a way to get cheap electricity, while in Poland and Hungary, two nations that still rely on coal energy, the far-right government defended their coal mines.
It is not surprising that many right-wing parties in Europe criticized the policy of sanctions against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. For many parties’ leaders, ensuring the flow of oil and gas from the Russian Federation was considered more important than punishing the Kremlin for its aggression against Ukraine. It is also worth remembering that some prominent representatives of the far-right in Europe had a good relationship with Moscow until a few years ago.
Still, such a “pragmatic” approach towards rising energy prices, promoted by radical right parties across Europe, was not taken into account by the EU leaders, while the decision to add new packages of sanctions against Russia and diversify energy supplies succeeded in lowering the cost for households. Besides that, the fight against climate change could yet be affected by the far-right position on the energy agenda, prompting a shift in the member states’ policies on the matter and somehow delaying the EU plans.
Written by: Francesco Marino