Is Kosovo Threatened by the European Far-Right? A Commentary on Forza Nuova and its Balkan Connections

The success that the Italian centre-left party Partito Democratico obtained in the administrative elections on October 3 and 4, led the press to believe that right-wing sovranisti forces were defeated. Maurizio Molinari, the editor of the newspaper La Repubblica, emphasised the poor results of “populist” parties such as Lega, Fratelli d’Italia and Movimento 5 Stelle who lost because, in his opinion, the Covid-19 crisis changed the priorities of the citizens. He argues that Italian citizens are no longer fond of the anti-migrant and no-vax or anti-Green Pass campaigns promoted by the far-right, but rather put their trust in the Draghi government and voted for moderate forces. The idea that the continental far-right was curbed by the pandemic found confirmation in the success obtained by the Social Democrat Party in the September elections in Germany. The fact that Alternative für Deutschland obtained a little more than 10% of the votes, losing 11 parliamentary seats in comparison to the former elections, was interpreted as a proof of the downward trend that characterises far-right movements.

On October 9, only few days after the Italian elections, over ten thousand people rallied in Rome to protest against the introduction of the Green Pass. The manifestation was followed by riots that broke out in different parts of the city. Hundreds of far-right activists raided the headquarter of the CGIL, a traditionally leftist trade union. The event was compared to the attack on Capitol Hill after the USA elections. A similar episode previously occurred in Belgrade when far-right protesters stormed the parliament on July 7, 2021. Politicians from different orientations termed the attack on the CGIL building as an act of “squadrismo”. Right-wing leaders Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni refused to define the attackers as “fascists”, but claimed that the Minister of Interior Lamorgese failed to prevent the turmoil. Videos on YouTube show the protesters entering the CGIL premises without any resistance. The day after the clashes, the leader of the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova Roberto Fiorewas arrested with other eleven far-right militants who were charged for organizing the attack.

The massive participation in street riots that followed the anti-Green Pass manifestation in Rome shows that far-right groups have not lost consensus. The press has reported that a crowd of three thousand people assaulted the CGIL building. This is a huge figure if we consider that meetings organized by Forza Nuova and other extremist organizations seldom draw more than one or two hundred people.  The relatively easy victory that the centre-left gained in the last elections, is probably due to the disillusion of many right-wing supporters who do not appreciate the moderate course embraced by Salvini and Meloni and therefore boycotted the polls. Major communication flaws about the overall social benefits and risks of the Covid-19 vaccination strategies, generated confusion and led many people to believe that the government and the press aim at reducing democratic freedoms at the profit of vaguely-defined elites. This gave far-right organizations such as Forza Nuova the opportunity to depict themselves as saviours of freedom and democracy.

Some recent events show that the far-right is trying to consolidate links in the region and Fiore might be playing a pivotal role in the process. The leader of Forza Nuova is the chairman of the far-right transnational organization Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF). On October 6, three days before the outbreak of the riots in Rome, a Congress of the APF was held at Hotel Moskva, in the centre of Belgrade. The happening was hosted by Miša Vacić, the leader of the Serbian ultranationalist party Srpska Desnica. Serbian sources report that there were five guests from Italy, amongst whom Roberto Fiore. Srpska Desnica joined the APF in December 2020, and Fiore announced the news on his Twitter account. The meeting was attended by Yvan Benedetti from the Parti Nationaliste Français, Claus Cremer of the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, Manuel Andrion from Falange, Gonzalo Marin Garcia from Democracia Nacional, Cristi Grigoras from Noua Dreapta and Ioannis Zografos from Elasyn. The latter played a recorded message of the party’s leader and former Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) member Ioannis Lagos who is currently in prison. A delegation of “Russian veterans” also attended the event.

The YouTube channel of Srpska Desnica posted a video with extracts of the guests’ interventions. They highlight the challenges that parties face in their respective countries. Roberto Fiore spoke about the struggle that his party has been carrying out against the “sanitary tyranny” that is allegedly being imposed on Italy. He claimed that “at the moment there is a huge fight against the attempt to destroy the freedom of the people”. He praised Miša Vacić and his party for going in front of the Serbian parliament in order to warn politicians that if they would impose a sanitary tyranny, they would make a revolution.  It is not very clear to what episode Fiore is referring to: he might be recalling the assault on the Serbian parliament of July 7, 2020 but in that occasion Srpska Desnica did not take a clear stand. Fiore’s declaration might have served as an attempt to legitimize the actions of Forza Nuova a few days later in Rome.

Vacić seems to be in quite good relations with Fiore. They also met in May for an APF meeting in Rome. A video posted on Vacić’s twitter account on June 3, shows him giving t-shirts to European far-right exponents, including Roberto Fiore. In the recent Belgrade meeting, Vacić affirmed that when he was in Rome he realised that it is a crime to be a patriot in the European Union, whereas in Russia, patriots are seen as heroes. He also said that he had been to prison ten years ago because he was against the organization of gay prides in Serbia. Vacić claimed that in Moscow the situation was different because the police did not beat nationalists but gays.

While discussing international politics, the far-right activists expressed admiration for Serbia and recognized her rights on Kosovo. Fiore stated that Serbia is not alone in her struggle against the “fake Kosovo power” and all nationalist Europe supports her. Vacić pleaded for joint actions for the world public opinion to understand that Serbs would not surrender their claims on the region. Apparently the APF has put Kosovo on the top of its agenda. According to information reported on the organizations’ website, “the next meeting of the APF is now scheduled for mid-November in the northern part of Kosovo (…) in support of the just demands of Serbian nationalism”. This next rally in the Serb-controlled territories of the Mitrovica district might unleash severe and long-term consequences for Serbs and Albanians as well as for all the Balkans. Part of the continental far-right might want to compromise peace in the region in order to further polarize the European political debate. On the one hand, the inclusion of the Kosovo question in the APF agenda can be a way for Fiore and other Western European far-right leaders to draw more support from Serbia. On the other hand, Kosovo can represent a “new” Eastern Ukraine for the continental far-right, that is a contended area where to launch a joint crusade against “Western” and “Eastern” enemies.