The Right-wing Terrorism Threat in Europe

Amid growing concern about a rise in right-wing terrorism in Europe and worldwide, there is an ongoing debate about the severity of this threat. Analysis of a CSIS data set of over 2,200 terrorist incidents in Europe between 2009 and 2020 found that 69.3 percent of fatalities were from jihadists, compared to only 21.8 percent from right-wing individuals or networks, 6.9 percent from ethno-nationalists, and 2.0 percent from left-wing actors. This suggests that despite a notable increase in the number of right-wing terrorist incidents during the past five years, jihadist terrorism continues to be the most lethal threat to Europe.

Despite this data, the threat from right-wing extremists in Europe is still serious. Most individuals are motivated by the spread of Islam in Europe, concerns about immigration, and a desire for a “white only” society. An increasing number of European extremists have developed relations with far-right networks in the United States, Ukraine, and other countries—making it a global challenge. The internet and social media platforms will likely continue to play a major role in allowing these individuals and networks to spread information and coordinate action. Terrorism—whether from right-wing individuals, jihadists, or others—will remain a persistent challenge, necessitating continued counterterrorism cooperation among Western governments.

This report is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.

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Seth G. Jones
Senior Vice President; Harold Brown Chair; and Director, International Security Program
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Catrina Doxsee
Associate Director and Associate Fellow, Transnational Threats Project

Nicholas Harrington