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.

Seth G. Jones
Senior Vice President; Harold Brown Chair; and Director, International Security Program

Nicholas Harrington