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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The forces of anti-immigration politics are upending liberal governments all over Europe — with voters in 21 of 28 EU countries citing immigration as the top issue facing the continent, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey.

The big picture: That's a disconnect with the reality — migrant arrivals in those countries have dropped significantly. But the political turmoil is spreading, to the point where there's even a far-right, anti-immigrant party on the rise in Sweden, one of the world’s most progressive countries. That's a sign that the immigration backlash is putting pressure on governments around the world, not just in the United States.

What we're watching: Sweden's election on Sept. 9 will be the next sign of how far the political turmoil has spread.

The far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats have surged in the polls, and the center-left Social Democrats are in danger of their first defeat in decades. The current climate is so hostile toward immigration that all three leading parties have proposed additional controls.

  • The popularity of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, who are polling at their highest level ever, is a symptom of the country’s struggles to integrate the 165,000 asylum-seekers it welcomed during the 2015 European migrant crisis.
  • But it’s not just them. Sweden’s two other leading political parties are also proposing changes to the country's "open hearts" immigration policy. All over Europe, mainstream parties are toughening their immigration policies in hopes of survival.

The backstory: More than 1 million migrants entered Europe during the 2015 migrant crisis, deepening the anti-immigrant sentiment that has fueled a resurgence of the far-right, and sweeping parties with hardline immigration platforms into power.

Where it stands: There are plenty of other signs that anti-immigration politics are thriving in Europe.

  • In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party — which decries multiculturalism and has jailed human rights lawyers who assist asylum-seekers — won a landslide election in April.
  • In Italy, the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement and far-right League joined forces in June to form a populist coalition government. One of their first moves in office was to prevent a ship carrying 629 migrants from docking on Italy's shores.
  • Leaders have also ridden immigration rhetoric to electoral success in Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

But it is in countries like Germany, France and the U.K. where pressure on center-right and center-left governments to adopt anti-immigrant measures is playing the biggest role in tilting Europe's political scales, writes the Brookings Institution's William A. Galston.

  • In the U.K., 88% of people who said immigration was the Brexit referendum's most important issue voted to Leave, according to the British Election Study. "If economic arguments had determined the outcome of the Brexit vote, Britain would have remained in the EU," Galston writes.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government was on the brink of collapse in June amid an inter-cabinet dispute over migration. She survived, but has backtracked from her controversial open door policy on migration. That policy powered the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany as a potent political threat.
  • Emmanuel Macron staved off populist Marine Le Pen in the French election last year, but anti-immigrant sentiment nonetheless catapulted her far-right party to its best election performance ever and forced Macron to take a tougher stance on asylum-seekers.
  • France's nationwide burka ban, meanwhile, is part of an effort to quell the fears of French citizens through legally-mandated assimilation, a trend that is taking hold all over Europe.

The bottom line: Europe is struggling to determine how to share the refugee burden while placating the concerns of its own people.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

3 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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