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New Europe

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched the largest amphibious invasion in history on Nazi-occupied France. This military operation, known as D-Day, marked the beginning of the liberation of Europe and was a turning point in the war. The operation on the beaches of Normandy involved approximately 156,000 soldiers.

Last week, Joe Biden and European leaders gathered in Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, one of the most critical moments of World War II. During the ceremony, while the leaders spoke about the sacrifices made during the invasion, they also had the opportunity to discuss the political and ideological conflicts that could arise following the European elections.

Shortly after this commemoration, citizens in 27 European countries began voting in the European Parliament elections. These elections were crucial as they would shape Europe’s political landscape and determine the continent’s future. The results of these elections, which are the second largest in the world by participation, led to the resurgence of far-right ideologies thought to have been defeated in 1944-45. The re-emergence of this force, which has the potential to divide a once unified Europe, is causing many to lose sleep.

The election results showed a rise in nationalist and populist parties across the continent. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) achieved a significant victory. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party gained strength. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party saw an increase in votes. These parties are generally known for their nationalist, anti-immigrant, and anti-EU policies.

These developments indicate that Europe’s political center is shifting to the right, and instead of reducing the influence of the far-right, the center parties are beginning to adopt their ideas. Europe’s economic and social problems are becoming more complex with anti-immigrant and nationalist rhetoric. Particularly, economic difficulties, an aging population, and declining birth rates highlight the need for better-organized immigration policies. However, in the current political climate, identity-based and exclusionary policies are at the forefront instead of constructive solutions.

A Brief Friendship

The Normandy invasion, or D-Day, was a result of the Western Allies’ efforts to open a second front against Nazi Germany to assist the Soviet Union. The landing of American, British, and Canadian soldiers on the Normandy shores initiated a major offensive against Germany.

The Normandy invasion was not only a military victory but also a political move. If the Western Allies did not open a second front, they feared the Red Army would defeat Hitler and dominate Europe alone. Therefore, the Normandy invasion was seen as both a military and political necessity.

Indeed, Soviet forces reached Berlin before the Western Allies and played a significant role in Germany’s surrender. The Soviet Union captured Berlin in May 1945, ending the Nazi regime. This victory significantly increased Soviet influence in Europe. However, this brief period of friendship quickly gave way to the Cold War. While the Soviets imposed their will on Eastern Europe, the Western Allies began to strengthen in Western Europe.

While Stalin’s regime was accused of forcibly imposing its will on Eastern Europe, the US did the same more subtly in Western Europe. One of the CIA’s first tasks was to prevent a communist or socialist majority in Italy’s first post-war elections. Part of this effort included incorporating Nazi collaborators into post-war European institutions. This played a significant role in shaping Western Europe’s political and military structure.

The Front National (FN), the predecessor of France’s Rassemblement National party, which recently led to Emmanuel Macron calling for early elections, was founded by Nazi collaborators. RN leader Marine Le Pen is trying to rid the party of its fascist ties, including distancing from Germany’s AfD. Some AfD leaders do not shy away from expressing their admiration for the Third Reich, i.e., Nazi Germany. The AfD performed better in the European Parliament elections than Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s so-called center-left coalition. While the Christian Democrats (CDU) remain strong, they are losing ground.

Recently, in a former Axis power, Italy, the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy party’s leader Giorgia Meloni is steadily rising to leadership. Meloni poses on the international stage as the sweet face of Europe’s far-right, but her government’s domestic policies reflect perverse tendencies.

The French elections will take place on July 7, two weeks before the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics. Macron hopes anti-fascist voters will defeat the far-right at the polls. However, polls show the far-right is expected to win, and there are even rumors that Macron will hand over his office to Le Pen in 2027.

There are also major uncertainties in Europe’s foreign policy. Russia’s aggressive stance towards Ukraine marked the D-Day ceremonies. Putin’s aggression, which serves his own interests, is causing serious security concerns in Europe.

The EU’s support for Israel is another contentious issue. Israel’s policies towards Palestine are being labeled as genocide. However, support for Israel continues. This situation raises questions about Europe’s consistency on human rights issues.

In this complex and uncertain picture, Europe’s political center is undergoing changes under the pressure of far-right and populist movements. Anti-immigrant policies, economic difficulties, and security concerns are paving the way for the rise of the far-right in European politics. This situation will deeply affect Europe’s future direction and its role in global politics.

The commemoration ceremony in Normandy not only reminded us of the past but also highlighted the challenges Europe will face today and in the coming years. In the 80 years since the end of World War II, Europe has faced crises and chose the path of unity to overcome them. The current political winds are causing this unity to be questioned again.

Remembering the lessons of the past and keeping hopes for the future alive are crucial for Europe to remain peaceful and stable. In such a period, seeking unity instead of division, tolerance instead of hatred, and dialogue instead of conflict is essential.

All these developments are factors pushing Europe’s future from darkness to disaster. The multifaceted challenges Europe faces are reshaping the continent’s political and social fabric. These changes, spanning from climate policies to foreign policy, domestic politics to immigration policies, are birthing a New Europe.

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YÜKSEL DURGUT is a journalist with a primary focus on global politics and foreign affairs.

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