“Who is the most important European alive today?” I asked in early 2010. Dutch politician Geert Wilders, came my answer, because “he is best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent.” I even raised the prospect of his emerging “as a world-historical figure.”
In other words, I focused not on run-of-the-mill political leaders — the U.K. prime minister, French president, German chancellor, or even the Roman Catholic pope — but on the disruptive politician leading Europe’s revolt against immigration and Islamization. Conventional politicians optimistically assume that the continent will muddle through, that some form of convivencia (Spanish for “coexistence,” a term deriving from medieval Andalusia) will emerge, that multiculturalism somehow will tame the beast of Islamic supremacism.
But as Europe's population of 741 million heads toward cultural crisis, as indigenous birthrates plunge, as Islamist aggression increases, and as the elite made up of the 6Ps (police, politicians, press, priests, professors, and prosecutors) myopically insists there is nothing to worry about, this happy talk has little basis in reality.
In 2010, Mr. Wilders clearly led those individuals and parties who stand up for traditional Western civilization — what the media inaccurately smears as the far-right but more accurately called civilizationist. Mr. Wilders remains a prominent spokesman for civilizationism; but he has not wielded power since 2012 and polls show that a competing Dutch civilizationist, Thierry Baudet, now attracts more voters. In retrospect, it appears that Mr. Wilders dwelt overly on the nature of Islam rather than on the dangers of migration.
In his place, a number of civilizationist politicians have emerged who wield actual power, especially in formulating their countries’ policies towards migrants and Islam. The key event in their emergence was Angela Merkel’s great folly of 2015-16 when, at her invitation, over a million unvetted mostly-Muslim migrants arrived in Germany and elsewhere. Then, to make matters worse, she insisted other European Union members take a proportion of the migrants, sparking widespread resentment.
Here, in my estimation, are the ten outstanding civilizationist leaders of this moment, in ascending order of importance (to be clear, this is an assessment, not an endorsement):
10. Siv Jensen — Norway’s minister of finance who leads an immigration-restriction party.
9. Christoph Blocher — Switzerland’s former head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police and still a key figure in the country’s anti-immigration politics.
8. Robert Fico — Slovakia’s former prime minister and still a behind-the-scenes-strongman, who says “Islam has no place” in Slovakia and has taken steps to prevent mosques from opening.
7. Milos Zeman — Czechia’s president who warns against immigration of Muslims because their integration into Europe is “practically impossible.”
6. Markus Soder — Bavaria’s premier who demands tougher security along Germany’s border with Austria.
5. Heinz-Christian Strache — Austria’s vice-chancellor wants to end the “policy of Islamization” (i.e., welcoming Muslim migrants) and instead initiate a “minus-immigration policy.”
4. Horst Seehofer — Germany’s interior minister who is battling his prime minister (Merkel) to keep illegal migrants out of the country.
3. Matteo Salvini — Italy’s interior minister who has made stopping uncontrolled emigration his first priority, to be followed by the far more challenging task of expelling 500,000 illegal immigrants.
2. Jaroslaw Kaczynski -— Poland’s former prime minister, now the country’s eminence grise, who formed a government by focusing on the immigration and Islamization issues.
1. Viktor Orban — Hungary’s visionary and autocratic prime minister since 2010, who won control of parliament by arguing against uncontrolled Muslim immigration, then battled Mrs. Merkel and offered a vision for a traditional, Christian Europe.
A few observations about this list:
Jimmie Akesson of the Sweden Democrats might jump on it after Sweden’s September elections.
Not included are up-and-coming politicians such as Germany’s minister of health, Jens Spahn, or Denmark’s Morten Messerschmidt.
Other than Mr. Blocher, Mr. Zeman, and Mr. Kaczyski, these politicians are relatively young, with potentially long careers ahead of them.
Ms. Jensen is the odd one out, being the only politician who is not male and not from Central Europe.
After many years of getting nowhere, the opposition to lax immigration controls and multiculturalism has now become a significant force in nine countries, seven of them members of the European Union. I predict that this number will substantially increase before long, perhaps making up half of the European Union’s soon-to-be-27 members and changing the direction of Europe as a whole. And one of the figures named here may yet become a world-historical figure.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.