European Rightward Tilt May Affect UN Business

Although the rise of far-right European political parties has garnered worldwide attention, the more quiet resurgence of center-right and Christian Democratic parties in country after country has potentially far greater significance for European social policy, as well as for European activities at the United Nations.

Center-right parties are currently ruling in Spain, Italy, Denmark and Portugal. Center-right candidates have recently won elections in France and the Netherlands, and lead in the polls in Germany. Although local political concerns vary, some observers tie this new success to widespread dissatisfaction with the radical social policies of leftist governments ruling in Europe throughout most of the 1990s.

According to a May 16 article in the Washington Post, even though liberal Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok “presided over a period of economic growth and low unemployment, an achievement that was called ‘the Dutch miracle,'” voters rejected his re-election bid in May in part because he “pushed through a large collection of social policy laws, legalizing brothels and euthanasia and making the Netherlands the world’s first country to fully recognize homosexual marriages.”

In response, Christian Democratic parties have embraced law-and-order polices as well as some conservative social policies. Jan Peter Balkenende, the Christian Democratic victor of the recent election in the Netherlands, does not support his country’s euthanasia laws. Edmund Stoiber, the leader of the Christian Social Union and the chief opponent of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in upcoming elections, is opposed to the legalization of gay marriage and is against abortion.

Germany has led EU efforts at the UN to create a partial ban on human cloning, one that would allow for the creation and destruction of cloned human embryos for research. It is therefore possible that a center-right victory in German elections would affect the overall EU negotiating position on cloning. The next round of UN meetings on cloning begins on September 23rd, one day after the German election.

According to Theo Brinkel, a member of the Christian Democratic Appeal of the Netherlands, a recent conference of European center-right parties affirmed “respect for the right to life and the uniqueness of each human being from the moment of conception.” The group also concluded that “experiments on human embryos should only be permitted if they are designed to protect the life and health of the specific embryo that is the subject of the experiment.”

Perhaps in response to this seeming rising tide of conservatism, some Socialist members of the European Parliament have drafted a resolution calling for all current and prospective EU member states to legalize abortion. The resolution declares that “the voluntary interruption of pregnancy should be legal, safe and universally accessible” in all EU countries.

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