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The Far-Right in International and European Law

Since the Second World War, the international community has sought to prevent the repetition of destructive far-right forces. Nevertheless, violent far-right entities have recently received unprecedented electoral support. In light of the current reality, a new book by UACES member Natalie Alkiviadou critically assesses the international and European tools available for States to regulate the far-right.

Far-right movements are not easily conceptualised. There is a lack of consensus as to their definition and the boundaries between between different terms remain blurred. In fact, the words ‘populist, neo-nationalist, far right, radical right and extreme right are often used interchangeably.’

Taking into account the inherent difficulties in finding a definition, my new book looks at the far-right as an ideology which contravenes the spirit and values of a functional human rights culture, as these rights have been promulgated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent documents. In essence, far-right entities ‘reject the principle of human equality and hence are hostile towards immigrants, minority groups and rising ethnic and culture identity’.

Since the Second World War, the international community has sought to prevent the revival of destructive far-right forces by establishing institutions, such as the United Nations, and by adopting documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination prohibits racist speech and associations. In cases such as Norwood v the United Kingdom and Vona v Hungary, the European Court of Human Rights has found hateful speech and associations respectively to fall outside the Convention’s protection.

Nevertheless, despite the international community’s commitment to preventing the far-right’s resurgence, violent far-right entities, such as Golden Dawn of Greece, have participated in parliament and have committed systematic crimes, including murder. France’s National Front and Italy’s Lega attained first place in their respective countries in the latest European elections, while countries such as Hungary and Poland are being led by right-wing populist parties which are instigating constitutional upheaval and violating basic elements of doctrines such as the rule of law.

In light of this current reality, The Far-Right in International and European Law critically assesses the international and European tools available for states to regulate the far-right. Through a normative backdrop of militant democracy and critical race theory, the book addresses three levels: the United Nation (UN), the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU). It examines how international and European law defines and protects central freedoms which are used by the far-right (expression, association and assembly) and considers how international and European law directly or indirectly challenge the far-right.

Through this assessment, I consider the objectives, scope and possible shortcomings in this sphere. Looking at both the Council of Europe and the EU, I assess the tools available and consider whether restricting fundamental rights and freedoms, such as expression, association and assembly, is an effective framework through which to tackle the far-right.

By incorporating an assessment of the key United States (U.S.) jurisprudence related to far-right hatred (e.g. cross burning and the Klu Klux Klan) I address the question of whether rights should be restricted. This allows me to demonstrate the stark disparity between the European/United Nations and U.S. conceptualisation and treatment of freedoms (particularly that of speech) within the framework of a far-right ideology. Ultimately, neither approach to handling far-right expression and groupings can be defined as more effective than the other, since the far-right has flourished in both settings.

Going beyond a theoretical and legal analysis of rights’ restrictions, I argue that the international community needs to examine the neo-liberal roots of far-right extremism and make a sincere effort to tackle socio-economic inequalities, nativist constructions of identities and the normalisation of exclusionary approaches to vulnerable groups. Otherwise, the far-right phenomenon will be here to stay.

There is a wealth of analysis of the phenomenon of the far-right in academic spheres. In Political Science, for example, academic discussion has considered, inter alia, both general and contextual trends and developments of the far-right[1] and the nature of the far-right as a political and/or non-political structure, with focuses on particular areas or regions,[2] the socio-economic and interpersonal reasons leading citizens to join the far-right electorate[3] and the advantages and disadvantages of proscribing far-right groups.[4]

Legal research, to date, has considered elements of the far-right and, in particular, hate speech.[5] However, thus far, no study in Law has considered the far-right in its entirety.

As such, and taking into account the recent rise of the far-right in an electoral and non-electoral ambit, this book is relevant for academics with an interest in international, European and human rights law, political science, and related disciplines. It will also be of interest to members of civil society, politicians and relevant stakeholders on a national and European level.



Please note that this article and represents the views of the author(s) and not those of UACES, JCER or the UACES Graduate Forum.

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Natalie Alkiviadou@NatalieAlk

Natalie Alkiviadou is a lecturer in European Union Law and Human Rights at UCLan Cyprus. Her research interest lie in the far-right, populism, hate speech, hate crime and non-discrimination. She is the academic coordinator of the Jean Monnet Module EU-POP on Populism (2019-2022).


[1]              General analyses of the development of the far-right (although case-studies are used) include: Pippa Norris Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market (1st edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2005); Contextual analyses of the development of the far-right include: Sofia Vasilopoulou & Daphne Halikiopoulou: ‘The Golden Dawn’s ‘Nationalist Solution’: Explaining the Rise of the Far Right in Greece’ (1st edn. Palgrave Pivot, London 2015); Kathy Marks ‘Faces of Right-Wing Extremism’ (1st edn. Branded Books, Tucson 2014) Anders Widfeldt Extreme Right Parties in Scandinavia’ (1st edn. Routledge, Abingdon, New York 2015)

[2]              General analysis: Cas Mudde, The Ideology of the Extreme Right’ (1st edn.  Manchester University Press, Manchester 2003); Contextual Regional Analysis: Andrea Mammone, Emmanuel Godin & Brian Jenkins, ‘Varieties of Right-Wing Extremism in Europe’ (1st edn. Routledge, Abingdon, New York 2013); Cas Mudde, ‘Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe’ (1st edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2007); Cas Mudde, ‘Racist Extremism in Central and Eastern Europe’ (1st edn. Routledge, Abingdon, New York 2005); Contextual country analysis: Stephen  E. Atkins, Encyclopaedia of Right-Wing Extremism In Modern American History (1st edn. ABC-CLIO, California 2011); Other country examples include studies on, inter alia, Switzerland: Marcel Alexander Niggli: Right-Wing Extremism in Switzerland: National and International Perspectives’ (1st edn. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden 2009)

[3]              Marco Giugni & Ruud Koopmans, ‘What Causes People to Vote for a Radical Right Party? A Rejoinder to van der Brug and Fennema’ (2007) 19 International Journal of Public Opinion Research 4; Matthew J. Goodwin, ‘Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain’ (1st edn, Routledge, London 2014)

[4]               Meindert Fennema, ‘Legal Repression of Extreme Right Parties and Racial Discrimination’ in Ruud Koopmans & Paul Statham ‘Challenging International and Ethnic Relation Politics – Comparative European Perspectives’ (1st edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000). This has also been done through a US-Europe comparative approach in Erik Bleich, ‘The Freedom to be Racist? How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism’ (1st edn. Oxford University Press 2011);  Stefan Sottiaux, ‘Anti-Democratic Associations: Content and Consequences in Article 11 Adjudication’ (2004) 22 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 4

[5]              Michael Herz & Peter Molnar, ‘The Content and Context of Hate Speech: Rethinking Regulation and Responses’ (1st edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012); Uladzislau Belavusau, ‘Fighting Hate Speech through EU Law’ (2012) 4 Amsterdam Law Forum; Ivan Hare & James Weinsten, ‘Extreme Speech and Democracy’ (2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2011); Erich Bleich, ‘The Freedom to be Racist? How the USA and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism’ (1st edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2011); Marloes van Noorloos, ‘Hate Speech Revisited: A Comparative and Historical Perspective on Hate Speech Law in the Netherlands and England and Wales’ (1st edn. Intersentia Cambridge 2011); Nazil Ghanea, ‘Minorities and Hatred: Protections and Implications’ (2010) 17 International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 3; Eva Brems, ‘State Regulation of Xenophobia Versus Individual Freedoms: the European View’ (2002) 1 Journal of Human Rights 4; David Kretzmer & Francine Kershman Hazan, ‘Freedom of Speech and Incitement against Democracy’ (1st edn. Brill, Leiden 2000); Meindert Fennema, ‘Legal Repression of Extreme Right Parties and Racial Discrimination’ in Ruud Koopmans & Paul Statham ‘Challenging International and Ethnic Relation Politics – Comparative European Perspectives’ (1st edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000)



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