NEWS - Archive September 2017

Headlines 15 September, 2017

Headlines 8 September, 2017

Headlines 15 September, 2017

Catholic Bishop Becomes Croatian Far-Right Champion

Croatia's far right, which has been on the march in recent months, has an unusual cheerleader - a controversial Catholic bishop who has even preached his nationalist message with a live band.

14/9/2017- As the far-right movement’s presence in the Croatian media grows, a Catholic bishop from the town of Sisak, Vlado Kosic, has gradually become one of its most visible figures. With frequent anti-communist and anti-Serb slurs interwoven into his sermons and social media posts, 58-year-old Kosic is now one of the most vocal far-right commentators. On Saturday, he had a prominent role at a concert staged by Croatian nationalist singer Marko Perkovic Thompson in the capital Zagreb. Known for his use of the Croatian WWII fascist Ustasa slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) in his famous 1991 wartime song ‘Cavoglave’, Thompson and his concerts are banned across Europe. During the concert, Kosic - clad in a brown leather jacket - recited verses from Thompson's song ‘Maranatha’, while the band provided accompaniment. "As long as there is a heart, there will be Croatia; show us the way to the heaven in the sky; Maranatha, come Jesus, my Lord,” he declaimed, triggering an uproar from Thompson's fans.

With Croatian politicians, media and the public currently engaged in ferocious debate about whether the public use of ‘Za dom spremni’ should be banned, Kosic has used social networks to support the far-right movement’s attempts to defend the WWII slogan. The bishop has claimed it was a historical Croatian greeting, despite the fact that many experts stress there is no proof of that. Kosic was also one of the signatories of a petition which was sent to Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic in August 2015, demanding that the slogan be used as a salute in the Croatian armed forces. Born in the village of Druzbinac, near the northern town of Varazdin, Kosic graduated from the Zagreb Catholic Theological Faculty in 1985, after which he was ordained.

In 1990, he became a vicar in the village of Hrastovica, near the town of Petrinja in central Croatia. In September 1991, he fled the village along with the majority of its occupants, before the advancing forces of rebel Croatian Serbs, who later burned the local church. In 1992, he was named the vicar of Petrinja, although in exile as Serb forces were still controlling the area. Pope Benedict XVI named him bishop in 2009. In recent years, Kosic, who became known for his far-right, anti-communist and anti-Serb stances, has appeared frequently in Croatian media and is believed to have a strong influence on rightist and even centre-right politicians. When the centre-right Bridge of Independent Lists, MOST, became the kingmaker after general elections in November 2015, Kosic put pressure on MOST’s leader Bozo Petrov – who was close to the Catholic Church – to drop negotiations with the centre-left coalition led by the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

At first it appeared that the SDP’s coalition and MOST would form a government, which angered Kosic, who described the centre-left party as “the communists who inflicted the most harm upon the Croatian people in their history”. The next day however, Petrov managed to change his party’s position and MOST started talking to the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ coalition, and their negotiations eventually led to them forming a government together. Kosic actively promoted the HDZ and its leader Andrej Plenkovic during the campaign for the early parliamentary elections in September 2016, which the HDZ won, and then formed a government with MOST and national minority representatives.

However, Kosic was not happy that the HDZ formed a coalition government with the liberal Croatian People’s Party, HNS, while sidelining the HDZ's own former member Zlatko Hasanbegovic, a controversial former culture minister and unofficial far-right leader. “Is it a Christian Democratic thing to introduce as your vice-president a man who participates in a gay parade [a reference to the HNS’s acting president Predrag Stromar], while you have got rid of a man who participated in the [anti-abortion] Walk of Life [a reference to Hasanbegovic],” Kosic wrote on Facebook.

Quarrels with the SDP
Back in 2013, the government, which was led at the time by the SDP, tried to introduce Cyrillic script alongside the Latin alphabet on signs on public institutions in the eastern town of Vukovar, a symbolic place for Croatians as it was devastated by the Yugoslav People’s Army and Serb paramilitaries during the war in 1991. The move was the SDP’s effort to implement the legal rights of the Serb minority in the area, in line with the country’s minorities legislation. Kosic attacked the SDP government and its HDZ-led predecessor, claiming that they “teamed up with Serbs in their struggle for power”, and referring to Croatian Serb political representatives as “destroyers and aggressors”. He alleged that it was “Serb Chetniks” – the WWII extreme nationalist movement which collaborated with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy – who were demanding the introduction of the dual-script signs in Vukovar.

In various speeches and interviews, Kosic claimed that mainstream anti-fascism was a mere “a mask behind which criminal Communism hides”. On various occasions, he promoted the far-right theory that the WWII Ustasa concentration camp at Jasenovac continuing to function as a Communist concentration camp after 1945 – a claim for which there is no scientific proof. He also glorified some of the Croats who were sentenced as war criminals over their role in the 1990s conflicts. After Dario Kordic, former leader of the self-proclaimed wartime statelet Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, was released from prison in June 2014 after serving his sentence for war crimes against Bosniaks in central Bosnia, Kosic said that Kordic was unjustly sentenced and that he was a “moral giant”.

Kosic’s views explain his dissatisfaction with the government’s decision on Thursday to remove the plaque honouring fallen members of the 1990s paramilitary Croatian Defence Forces, HOS - which included the slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ - from the municipality of Jasenovac, near the former Ustasa concentration camp. He described the removal as a “shameful act by the government”. “If tomorrow, Serbian brothers are disturbed by the Croatian national anthem, this government will forbid it because the Ustasa also sang that anthem. Long live Serbian Croatia!” he wrote ironically on Facebook on Thursday. His mixture of humour and Croatian nationalist sentiments yet again delighted his increasing number of admirers. In the comments section on far-right news site, one of them wrote: “Bishop, your every word is worth gold.”
© Balkan Insight


Swedish far-right calls no-confidence vote against PM

 Sweden Democrats say Stefan Löfven should be held responsible for data breach scandal.

13/9/2017- The far-right Sweden Democrats on Wednesday called a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven over his handling of a data security breach. “He has talked about disasters but not about the disaster in his own government offices, that information wasn’t passed along, and his role as the leader in that,” said Paula Bieler, a Sweden Democrat MP who called for the vote in parliament, Radio Sweden reported. The vote will likely take place Friday. The security scandal dates back to 2015 when the Swedish Transport Agency outsourced IT operations to IBM Sweden, potentially allowing contractors located in a number of Eastern European countries to access classified information without security clearance. The breach, described as one of the largest in Swedish history, could have put personal information at risk.

When the incident became public in July this year, Löfven called it “a mess” and said it “exposed both Sweden and the Swedes to risk.” But he refused to bow to demands from opponents to call an early election. In July, center-right opposition leaders launched a no-confidence motion against Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and Interior Minister Anders Ygeman. Both Johansson and Ygeman resigned while Hultqvist remained in post. He faces a vote of no-confidence later this week. Responsibility for the scandal should ultimately fall on the prime minister’s shoulders, Bieler told parliament Wednesday. “It’s a scandal that has shaken the whole Swedish political discussion where the prime minister has great responsibility,” Sweden Democrat Aron Emilsson told Radio Sweden.
© Politico EU


Refugees are selling organs to pay for their escape, Dutch tv programme says

13/9/2017- Some refugees are paying smugglers to bring them into Europe by selling a kidney, a Dutch television investigation will say on Wednesday night. Researchers with the Zembla current affairs programme spoke to an organ trader in Cairo who says dozens of people have taken the drastic step to finance their trip. Most are in Germany but one is in the Netherlands and one in France. Others are in Ireland, Britain, Sweden and Norway. The traders work on behalf of Egyptian transplant surgeons who sell the kidneys to wealthy people in the Middle East. One trader who recruited Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers told the programme he is paid €20,000 a kidney. Criminologist Frederike Ambagtsheer, who specialises in the organ trade, told Zembla that it is the first time she has heard of refugees selling a kidney to pay for their trip.
© The Dutch News


Greece: Anti-fascist march planned on Golden Dawn offices

13/9/2017- An anti-fascist march on the offices of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Athens is planned for this Saturday to commemorate the death of rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was murdered by self-professed Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias on September 17, 2013. Representatives of a campaign calling for the closure of Golden Dawn’s offices put in a request with Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas for the march to be allowed to go all the way to the party’s offices on Mesogeion Avenue in Athens. Toskas, who met with organizers of the rally, said he would respond in a timely fashion. However, he explained that the job of the police is to keep public spaces secure and prevent instances of violence, not to guard the neo-Nazi party’s offices. The march against Golden Dawn will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Syntagma Square and head toward Mesogeion Avenue.
© The Kathimerini.


Greece: How Lesbos residents drove the far-right Golden Dawn party off the island

Vasiliki Andreadelli won’t let Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party scare her from helping refugees arriving on Lesbos.

12/9/2017- The 56-year-old resident of the Greek island is a nurse and founder of Iliaktida, a nonprofit organization which provides housing and recreational activities for unaccompanied refugee youth. “It is very important to take part in protests against Golden Dawn because it is a fascist and racist party. It is very important that they cannot scare us,” said Andreadelli, who was born and raised in Lesbos, the third largest Greek island and at its shortest point about four miles away from Turkey. Andreadelli was instrumental in building resistance against Golden Dawn, an extremist political party whose swastika-tattooed spokesman and other leaders describe themselves as ultranationalists and call for non-Europeans to be disallowed from living in the country.

In the summer of 2015 Golden Dawn supporters started to preach anti-migrant rhetoric to the people of Lesbos as the refugee crisis on the island was hitting its peak. But Andreadelli and many others on Lesbos — public officials, human rights workers and island residents — stood up against the far-right campaign. Andreadelli helped organize a protest against the group in November 2016. She also organized community activities where residents could learn about and meet the refugees on the island. Since early 2015 the island of about 87,000 residents has seen more than a half a million people clamor across the Aegean Sea on rubber dinghies, mostly fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. For Golden Dawn, the world’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II was a political opportunity. And Lesbos seemed a natural place to build a base of support. It wasn’t.

'Sink the refugee boats'
Golden Dawn was founded in the early 1980s, but became a political force in Greece’s national elections in 2012 over concerns about the Greek economy and high levels of unemployment. For the first time the group won seats in parliament that year. The group’s original political position was anti-immigration but leaders started to add stronger anti-refugee statements to its political messages when more boats began reaching the shores of the Greek islands starting in the spring of 2015. After Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation on Aug. 20, 2015, and called for early elections, Golden Dawn saw an opportunity.

In an Aug. 22, 2015, statement on the Golden Dawn website, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the secretary general of the party said, “In the islands of the eastern Aegean there is a literal invasion occurring and there has been no answer from the Greek state, which has left our border citizens at the mercy of the alien invaders.” With snap elections approaching, Michaloliakos appealed to voters. “Give Golden Dawn strength so there can be a solution to the problem of illegal immigration,” he said. “We didn’t cause those wars. We didn’t create all these refugees. Greece can’t handle any more illegal immigrants.” On Lesbos, Golden Dawn’s official activities were relatively few in the lead up to the elections, but its supporters pushed hard to gather support.

Golden Dawn had opened its Lesbos office in May 2014, less than a year after the arrest of its top leadership by Greek authorities on charges of running a criminal organization. The Lesbos branch was relatively quiet compared to other local branches of the party, according to Antonis Ellinas, an associate professor of political science at the University of Cyprus who has studied Golden Dawn’s rise in Greece. His research shows that party members and supporters held seven official activities in Lesbos between May 2014 and April 2015. Activities included Golden Dawn leadership speaking to small community groups, giving speeches to large gatherings, disseminating party newsletters and community service projects like handing out food or cleaning historical monuments. Meanwhile, in comparison, the western Greek islands in the Ionian Sea, such as Corfu, had 63 activities from December 2014 to April 2015.

If Golden Dawn’s official organizing was limited on Lesbos, members and supporters eagerly spread the party’s anti-refugee message. “Prior to 2015 election Golden Dawn’s activities were limited but gaining support,” said Marios Andriotis, the spokesperson for Lesbos Mayor Spyros Galinos. “Their office was active but not in the form of rallies and events. The members were trying to reach out to the people via Facebook and social media.” Andriotis says that the party’s popularity hit a peak in the summer months of 2015 during the worst time of the refugee crisis. While Lesbos officials, aid groups and island residents worked to adapt to the crisis, Golden Dawn supporter stokes the fears of those on the island who felt threatened by the refugees.

“The Golden Dawn party members tried to spread fake news stories through the internet about refugees harming or hurting people on Lesbos,” said 65-year-old Christina Chatzidaki, a board member of Coexistence and Communication in the Aegean, an independent association on Lesbos which organizes peace building programs, including events about refugee integration and peace with neighboring Turkey. The Lesbos government built reception centers for the refugees and two camps for housing them. They built Kara Tepe refugee camp in April 2015 to provide shelter and services for refugees and the Moria refugee camp in October 2015 at a hilltop former military base on the southeastern part of the island.

The camps became targets of Golden Dawn’s anti-refugee messaging campaign. So did the man who oversaw their construction: Galinos, the mayor. “They attacked the mayor verbally several times and members of Golden Dawn tried to visit the village of Moria to instigate riots against building the refugee camp there,” said Andriotis. “Golden Dawn supporters were telling people on Lesbos to sink the refugee boats and send them back. They were saying to protect Greece’s borders,” he said. PRI contacted the Golden Dawn Party’s office in Athens for an interview but they did not respond to requests. Golden Dawn went on to win about 7 percent of the vote in Greece’s legislative elections in September 2015, or about 380,000 out of 5.4 million votes nationwide. The party won 18 seats in the 300-member parliament, respectively and became the third biggest political party.

Golden Dawn increased its vote share on Lesbos from almost 5 percent to nearly 8 percent between the January and September 2015 snap elections. “This was, on one hand, the outcome of a nationally applied strategy based on an anti-migrant rhetoric rather than of locally tested tactics,” said Michalis Psimitis, a professor of sociology at the University of the Aegean in Lesbos who specializes in social movements. “In other words, in that period Golden Dawn in Lesbos benefited from the general electoral rise of the party, given that its presence on the island has always remained weak and cautious because of the local anti-Nazi and anti-racist activism.” In the end, it would be these anti-racist forces that would win out on Lesbos. After Golden Dawn’s modest electoral gains in 2015, local pressure on the group mounted. And last November, Golden Dawn closed its Lesbos office.
'There wasn't much room for the Golden Dawn party'

There’s no single reason why Golden Dawn’s message of anti-refugee ultranationalism failed to take serious hold on Lesbos. Those who know the island best say it was a combination of community organizing, local culture and history. “There wasn’t much room for the Golden Dawn party. We are peaceful people who don’t like all of those kinds of troubles,” said Chatzidaki, the community organizer, who credits community pressures and protests in 2016 through the streets of Mytilene, the bustling capitol of Lesbos, with leading Golden Dawn to leave the island. Lesbos has a long refugee history. So while the scale of the crisis was new, it wasn’t unusual for migrants to be arriving on the island. “Locals have family that were refugees in 1923, there is a collective memory about this situation,” said Michalis Poulimas, who teaches sociology at Aegean University in Lesbos. Poulimas was referring to the 1923 agreement between Greece and Turkey to forcibly relocate Muslim Greeks to Turkey and Christian Orthodox Turks to Greece.

Those working to manage the refugee influx also found ways to prevent the destabilization many in Lesbos felt from boiling over into hostility toward the refugees. “The residents of Moira village weren’t happy at first to have the camp but the local officials offered to repair the roads and renovate a football stadium there in exchange for building the camp,” Poulimas said. Some Lesbos residents saw their lots improved a bit over time. After suffering through the larger Greek economic crisis in 2014 and then a decrease in tourism as more refugees arrived, some locals found work with aid groups, took jobs in the camps or opened small shops outside them. “If it wasn’t because of the refugee crisis,” Poulimas said, “many people in Lesbos wouldn’t have a job now.” Andriotis also says the mayor’s office and local officials worked hard to counter Golden Dawn’s anti-refugee rhetoric. “I don’t deny that there is a portion of the community that believes in far-right practices,” he said, “but the majority of the people could see the refugees were in distress and they needed help.”

None of this has been easy.
Eva Cosse, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Greece, says the mayor and some Lesbos residents weren’t as welcoming at first of refugees and that the camps at Lesbos have their share of problems including overcrowding and safety concerns for women and children. “Some residents of Lesbos wouldn’t offer any help at first, like letting refugees charge their cell phones or they turned them away at businesses like barbershops,” said Cosse, who has documented the abuses unaccompanied refugee children face in the Greek camps and the prolonged detention of asylum-seekers. However, Cosse notes that Lesbos has always had a strong civil society and a tradition of activism that put it in a strong position to face the crisis. “Mytilini is a multi-cultural and vibrant place where students and activists from other parts of Greece are attracted to,” she said.

Psimitis, the sociology professor, also credits these activists with supporting refugees at a time when Golden Dawn and its supporters were damning the new arrivals. “During the difficult summer of 2015, when sometimes 4,000 people arrived on a daily basis, it was this movement with its tens of hundreds of activists which supported the refugees in many ways,” Psimitis said. “if it wasn’t for this movement, the status of the refugees today would be much worse than it is now.”

'Time to rebuild the image of Lesbos'
Fewer boats are arriving on Lesbos’ shores these days. In March 2016, Turkey signed a deal with the EU agreeing to accept back migrants and asylum-seekers that reach Greece. With Europe more unreachable than it once was, fewer people are making the journey. Meanwhile, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were more than 3,700 migrants and refugees still in Lesbos at the end of June. Residents of Lesbos say they worry about the European countries taking advantage of their hospitality for the refugees and turning their home into “Asylum Island.” The northwestern town of Molyvos with its medieval remains is the island’s famous tourism destination. The town was hit the hardest after the images of devastated refugees arriving on it shores and walking through the town spread in news reports and social media in the summer of 2015. Residents say tourism dropped by almost 80 percent the following summer forcing many shops and restaurants to shut down. “People stopped coming to Lesbos, the images of life vests and dinghies on the shore and residents felt abandoned,” Andriotis said.

Two summers later, the island hasn’t fully recovered. Hotel owners and shopkeepers say “repeaters” — tourists who had visited the island before the refugee crisis — are coming back to help support the businesses and show others that there isn’t anything to be afraid of, but it hasn’t been enough. “It is time to rebuild the image of Lesbos,” Adriotis said. For Andreadelli and Chatzidaki the rebuilding effort doesn’t include the Golden Dawn party. “The next elections are coming and they [Golden Dawn party] will be active again. We will continue building bridges between Lesbos’ residents and the refugees that are here on the island,” said Chatzidaki.


Bulgarian far right set to shock Brussels

Government that will run EU Council includes parties branded ‘ultra-nationalist/fascist’ by rights experts.

12/9/2017- Brussels is bracing for a blast of Bulgarian ultra-nationalism. With Sofia taking over the EU’s rotating Council presidency in January, politicians and officials in Brussels are sounding the alarm over the United Patriots (UP) — a group of three far-right parties in Bulgaria’s coalition government. During Bulgaria’s six-month presidency term, UP ministers will play a role in leading the Council of the European Union, the body representing the EU’s 28 governments. UP leaders have used racist rhetoric toward Bulgaria’s Roma minority, advocated violence to prevent migrants from entering Europe and publicly expressed doubt that man-made climate change is a problem. Ministers nominated by the UP will chair two incarnations of the Council of the EU during Bulgaria’s presidency, dealing with the European single market and environmental policy. The government of which they are part will also lead debates on sensitive topics, ranging from an overhaul of asylum policies to the EU’s spending priorities from 2021.

One UP leader, Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, once publicly described the Roma as “ferocious apes.” A second leader, Deputy Prime Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, who, as defense minister, will participate in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, recently said the EU and NATO should stop migrants entering Europe “by force of arms if necessary.” And a third UP-nominated member of the government, Environment Minister Neno Dimov, who will lead the Environment Council during Bulgaria’s presidency, said in 2015 that climate change is “a matter more of manipulation than for serious concern.”

Officials in Brussels said they were deeply apprehensive about the prominent role UP leaders will soon play in EU affairs. “At a time when [U.S. President Donald] Trump is defending Nazi sympathizers, we have to ensure that the Council presidency shows unitedly that there is no place for fascist ideas in the European Union,” said Guy Verhofstadt, an MEP and former Belgian prime minister, who leads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Verhofstadt said MEPs would “keep a close eye” on the UP. Asked by POLITICO about the UP’s rhetoric, Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová, who is in charge of promoting the integration of Roma communities across Europe, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable … I am nervous about this situation.” She said she is already monitoring the new government’s policy toward the Roma for signs of backsliding and would be in “intensive” discussions with Sofia in the coming months.

‘Notorious’ for ‘propagating hatred’
While far-right parties have failed to get into power this year elsewhere in Europe, the United Patriots signed up to a coalition with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose center-right GERB party failed to win a parliamentary majority in a snap election in March. Joseph Daul, the leader of the European People’s Party, of which GERB is a member, had previously called the UP an unacceptable coalition partner. The UP nominated four ministers in the government — two deputy prime ministers, Karakachanov and Simeonov, plus Dimov, the environment minister, and Emil Karanikolov, the economy minister. During the presidency, Karanikolov will chair the EU’s Competitiveness Council, which deals with internal market legislation, and lead meetings of trade ministers. In some cases, UP leaders have sought to turn their nationalist rhetoric into action. Earlier this year, Simeonov and Karakachanov, the defense minister who is also leader of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), joined protesters who tried to barricade the Bulgarian-Turkish border to stop ethnic Turks from voting in the election.

IMRO “is notorious for systematically propagating hatred against neighboring peoples in the Balkans as well as anti-Gypsy propaganda,” said the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance in a report. The same report described IMRO and the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, led by Simeonov, as “ultra-nationalist/fascist” and Volen Siderov — leader of Ataka, the third party in the UP alliance — as “well-known for his outspoken racist views.” During a parliamentary debate in 2014, Simeonov said the Roma community had turned into “ferocious apes demanding a right to salary without labor, sickness benefits without being sick, child benefits for children playing with pigs in the streets, and maternal benefits for women with the instincts of street b–ches.” His party also campaigned in the country’s 2014 election with IMRO to destroy illegal Roma villages, placing Roma communities in “reservations” and keeping some as “tourist attractions.”

Not long after the government was formed, Simeonov was forced to defend two colleagues after photos of them giving Nazi salutes appeared online, as well as another deputy interior minister for describing refugees as “apes.” “Bulgaria doesn’t need uneducated refugees … They have a different culture, different religion, even different daily habits,” Simeonov told the BBC.As deputy prime minister, Simeonov now chairs a national council dealing with the integration of ethnic minorities — an absurd turn, in the opinion of some EU politicians. “It is frankly appalling that Valeri Simeonov … can be deputy prime minister of an EU country,” said Soraya Post, a Swedish MEP who leads on Roma issues in the European Parliament, adding that Simeonov’s appointment to the head of the national council was a “cruel and sickening joke.”

Simeonov did not respond to a request for comment, and Karakachanov was not available for comment. Angel Dzhambazki, an IMRO MEP, said he was not concerned by the criticism from Brussels. “Whoever says these things, they need to prove it in court. If they fail to prove [their statements] in court, then they’re liars,” he said. “I’m tired of hearing all these silly, empty accusations made by people who have nothing to say, so they come up with clichés to hide their own political insignificance,” he added. “Usually such statements come from people who have poor track records as politicians.”

Watchful MEPs
The Bulgarian ministers are set to face a grilling, particularly from liberal and center-left MEPs, in January when they attend committee meetings in the European Parliament to highlight the Bulgarian presidency’s policy priorities. “In light of what’s happening with Trump, globally the time for being equivocal on [racism] is long gone,” said Claude Moraes, chairman of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, adding that the Commission and Parliament would be “watching carefully” to ensure “populism doesn’t rear its head” in the Bulgarian presidency. Even so, some are less concerned, saying that despite the hard-line rhetoric used by the UP, Borisov is firmly in charge of his government. “Until now there is no proof that Borisov will go against European policy,” said Elmar Brok, a German center-right MEP who until recently chaired the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

And while a few years ago the UP’s rhetoric on migrants and Turkey was seen as beyond the pale, party officials suggest at least some of their ideas have now been embraced by mainstream European politicians. “Ask them why [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel is sending migrants back to Afghanistan,” said MEP Dzhambazki. “It means that we were right.”
© Politico EU


Germany: Prosecutors demand life in jail for last surviving member of neo-Nazi terror cell

German prosecutors on Tuesday sought a life sentence for the surviving female member of a neo-Nazi trio accused of a string of racist murders that targeted mainly Turkish immigrants.

12/9/2017- Beate Zschäpe, 42, is co-accused in the 10 killings carried out by the other two members of the self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU), Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, between 2000 and 2007.  Zschäpe for years lived in hiding with Mundlos and Boehnhardt, who shot dead eight men of Turkish origin, a Greek migrant and a German policewoman before the two died in an apparent suicide pact after a botched bank robbery in 2011. After the men's deaths, Germany was shocked to discover that the nationwide killings - long blamed by police and media on migrant crime gangs and dubbed the "döner (kebab) murders" - were in fact committed by a far-right cell with xenophobic motives. Prosecutor Herbert Diemer told the Munich court on Tuesday that Zschäpe shared the "fanatical" world view of the two men and their aim to spread fear and terror among immigrants with random murders.

He pointed to the severity of the crimes and called for the maximum life term, which under German law means a prisoner spends 15 years behind bars, followed by indefinite preventive detention on security grounds. Prosecutors charge that Zschäpe was an NSU member and aided the crimes, also including two bomb attacks and 15 bank robberies, by covering the men's tracks, handling finances and providing a safe retreat in their shared home. The mammoth trial - with 95 victims' relatives listed as co-plaintiffs - has so far lasted more than four years and heard almost 600 witnesses. A verdict is expected in several months' time in the trial where Zschäpe is in the dock together with four suspected NSU supporters.

Institutional prejudice
Zschäpe has denied guilt and described herself as a passive and innocent bystander to the bloody crimes. She has admitted only to an arson charge, having torched the trio's common home after the men died, and of then distributing a DVD in which the group boasted about the killings in a film set to a comical Pink Panther theme. She broke her silence only a year ago, telling the court that she was involved "neither in the planning nor the execution" of any crimes, and that she was "horrified" to learn about them afterwards. She admitted that as a youth in the former communist east Germany, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, she had "indeed identified with nationalist ideology". But she insisted that "today I judge people not by their origin and political affiliation but by their behaviour".

The random discovery of the NSU in 2011 deeply embarrassed German authorities, exposing police and domestic intelligence flaws and raising uncomfortable questions about how the cell went undetected for 13 years. German security services faced withering criticism for only associating terrorism with far-left or Islamist groups, not neo-Nazis. A parliamentary panel in 2013 blamed institutional prejudice among security services for failing for years to solve the series of assassination-style shootings committed with the same Ceska handgun. It also criticized excesses in the use of paid undercover informants, including violent leading neo-Nazis, who fed the money they received from the state back into their racist and militant organizations.
© AFP.


German far-right leader accused of illegally hiring Syrian refugee: report

Alice Weidel called report ‘fake news.’

13/9/2017- Alice Weidel, a senior member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), illegally employed a Syrian refugee to do housework at her home in Switzerland, according to a report by Die Zeit on Wednesday. Weidel, one of the AfD’s two lead candidates in the September 24 general election, reportedly hired an Islamic studies student to help around her house in Biel in 2015 who then passed on the job to a Syrian woman. The Syrian was paid cash-in-hand at a rate of 25 Swiss francs (roughly €22) per hour, which Zeit said is a typical wage in Switzerland. Weidel’s partner is from Switzerland. Sources close to Weidel told Zeit that the Syrian asylum seeker did not have a written work contract, nor were there invoices for her work.

Though Weidel is widely considered a liberal voice in the right-wing, populist AfD, she has used the refugee crisis to bolster support for her party, harshly criticizing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door migration policy and calling for greater controls. When asked by Zeit about the report, Weidel’s lawyer said he needed time to respond because of the “very complex legal issues in terms of the legitimacy of remuneration rules.” Her lawyer also told Zeit that Weidel was “friendly” with a Syrian woman, who had stayed at her house as a guest but not as a worker, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Weidel later wrote on Twitter that the Zeit report was “fake news” and “false.” “Alice Weidel has at no point hired an asylum seeker, let an asylum seeker work for her, or paid an asylum seeker remuneration,” said a statement posted to her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Weidel further accused Zeit of not properly explaining that an annual wage of less than 750 Swiss francs (roughly €650) for doing housework would not need to be declared under Swiss law. Weidel recently came under fire over a leaked email in which she allegedly described immigrants as “aliens” and “non-people.” She also reportedly called for the preservation of “genetic unity” and warned against the “self-defeated dissolution of our culture,” according to Die Welt. Weidel denied that she wrote the email. The AfD is expected to win seats in the Bundestag later this month as the party is currently polling at between 8 and 11 percent. This would make it the first far-right party to enter the German parliament since World War II.
© Politico EU


German foreign minister equates far-right AfD party with Nazis

11/9/2017- Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday equated the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with the Nazis who ruled the country from 1933 to 1945, an insult rarely heard in national politics. In an interview with Internet provider, Gabriel said many German voters were considering voting for the AfD in the Sept. 24 parliamentary election because they felt their concerns about migration, security and jobs were not being addressed. Founded in 2013 as an anti-European Union party, the AfD shifted its focus from the euro zone debt crisis to immigration after Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 opened the doors to over a million migrants, many fleeing war in the Middle East. “If we’re unlucky, then these people will send a signal of dissatisfaction that will have terrible consequences. Then we will have real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War Two,” said Gabriel, a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in the ruling coalition.

The AfD declined to comment on Gabriel’s remarks, which came after the Welt am Sonntag newspaper cited what it called a racist email reportedly written by Alice Weidel, a top AfD candidate, to a Frankfurt business associate in 2013. The German government was destroying society by allowing it to be overrun by “culturally foreign people such as Arabs, Sinti and Roma,” the newspaper quoted the email as saying. Weidel’s spokesman Christian Lueth, writing on Twitter, dismissed the report as “fake news” aimed at keeping his party out of parliament. He told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that Weidel had assured him the email was not from her. Lueth declined to comment further when contacted by Reuters.

“Change Course”
Other parties also lined up to criticize the AfD, which polls show is on course to enter the national parliament for the first time after the election. The party has seats in 13 of 16 state legislatures. Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, head of the CSU sister party of Merkel’s conservatives, dismissed the leaked email as a publicity-seeking “provocation” by the AfD that was best ignored. Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a member of Gabriel’s SPD, said in an essay published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that parts of the AfD’s program, including on religion, family and Europe, were unconstitutional. German prosecutors separately launched an investigation into remarks by another AfD official, Alexander Gauland, who said Germany’s integration minister should be “dumped” back to Turkey, her parents’ country of origin. [nL2N1LS093]

Christian Lindner, who heads the pro-business Free Democratic Party that is also poised to win seats in parliament, described the AfD as an anti-liberal and authoritarian party that was completely at odds with his own. Gabriel urged steps to reverse the AfD’s gains in neglected communities and villages of the former communist East Germany. “We must change course and not only reimburse the cost of taking in migrants, but also give local communities the same amount on top so they can do more for their citizens,” he said. Merkel, whose CDU/CSU conservatives are leading the SPD by double digits in opinion polls, looks poised to win a fourth term. Both her camp and the Social Democrats have ruled out governing in coalition with the AfD.
© Reuters


As Germans prepare to vote, a mystery grows: Where are the Russians?

10/9/2017- In 2015, suspected Russian hackers broke into the computer networks of the German Parliament and made off with a mother lode of data — 16 gigabytes, enough to account for a million or more emails. Ever since, German politicians have been watching nervously for the fruits of that hack to be revealed, and for possible embarrassment and scandal to follow. Many warily eyed September 2017 — the date of the next German election — as the likely window for Russian meddling to once again rattle the foundations of a Western democracy. But with the vote only two weeks away — and with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s European nemesis, Chancellor Angela Merkel, seemingly on track for a comfortable win — the hacked emails haven’t materialized. Nor have Russian-linked propaganda networks churned into overdrive with disinformation campaigns. Even Kremlin-orchestrated bots — blamed for the viral spread of fake news in last year’s U.S. presidential campaign — have been conspicuously silent.

The apparent absence of a robust Russian campaign to sabotage the German vote has become a mystery among officials and experts who had warned of a likely onslaught. Have Germany’s defensive measures — significantly boosted after the hacks and propaganda campaigns that preceded last November’s U.S. vote — actually succeeded? Or has Russia decided to pull back, reckoning that the costs of antagonizing Merkel outweigh the benefits? Or perhaps Moscow is simply biding its time. “That’s what makes me worried,” said Maksymilian Czuperski, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “Why is it so quiet? It doesn’t feel right.”

Much is at stake for Russia in the German vote. Merkel, a Russian speaker who has jousted with Putin throughout her 12-year tenure as chancellor, is critical to the Western alliance’s chances of hanging together amid a concerted Russian campaign to pick it apart. To her left and her right are German parties that have advocated a far softer line on Moscow. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, in particular, has taken stands that would please Putin, including calls to abolish the European Union. Putin has denied that his government is behind efforts to influence elections in the United States and beyond, while coyly acknowledging that “patriotically minded” Russians may be acting on their own. But if Russia was hoping to undermine Merkel before the Sept. 24 vote, it doesn’t appear to be working: Her center-right party has remained well ahead of all competitors in all polls, while the AfD’s support seems to have topped out at about 10 percent.

Whether Russia makes a concerted push to meddle may not be known until election night — or beyond. German authorities are certainly not yet declaring victory, and they have urged politicians and the public to remain on alert as the campaign hits the homestretch. In recent days, German cybersecurity officials have warned that Russian-linked networks may try to manipulate the vote count, perhaps throwing the outcome into disarray. And the country’s top domestic intelligence officer said his staff is conducting hourly checks of sites such as BTleaks to make sure there’s no fresh sign of the hacked documents from the Bundestag, the German Parliament. Meanwhile, a leading Merkel ally reported that on the eve of the campaign’s only nationally televised debate this month, her website was hit with thousands of cyberattacks — many of which appeared to emanate from Russian IP addresses. But overall, officials and experts say the scale of apparent Russian interference is far lower than they had expected.

Volker Wagner, chairman of the German Association for Security in Industry and Commerce, said his group recently conducted a comprehensive survey of its members on the issue and came up empty. The organization, which works closely with German intelligence agencies to counteract shared threats, did not find “any evidence . . . that there are more sophisticated attacks coming from Russia in the pre-election period.” Czuperski, meanwhile, said the stream of fake news and bot-spread disinformation had visibly slowed. If evidence of Russian meddling continues to be minimal, experts say, there may be valuable lessons in understanding why Germany has proved unusually resilient. One is that German authorities have been especially aggressive in trying to publicize and combat Russian sabotage efforts as they emerge — a contrast to the United States, where the Obama administration last year was reluctant to sound the alarm on what intelligence agencies later concluded was a concerted Russian campaign to help then-candidate Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

When pro-Russian news outlets began circulating a story last year about a Russian-German girl named Lisa who was allegedly abducted and raped by Arab migrants, German officials shot down the story and accused Moscow of “political propaganda.” German intelligence officials have also named Russian-linked groups as the likely culprit behind the Bundestag hack, and they have been outspoken in their belief that Moscow will try to sway the German electorate against Merkel. German lawmakers, meanwhile, in June passed stringent legislation that imposes multimillion-euro fines on companies that fail to remove fake news and defamatory content from their websites. The legislation, which was vigorously opposed by Facebook and other social media firms, does not go into effect until October. But already, companies have begun to comply.

Patrick Sensburg, a Merkel ally in Parliament and an intelligence expert, said he has reported some 30 accounts to Facebook in the past several months that he suspects of being pro-Russian bots. The accounts all have the same friends, offer no personal details and use the same language to attack him. “They’ll say, ‘Are you a Muslim?’ or ‘Merkel let everybody in’ or ‘You’re selling out our country,’ ” he said. In most cases, he said, Facebook has acted on his complaints by taking the accounts down. “We’re in the beginning on social media of the fight against fake news and fake accounts,” he said. German defense may not account entirely for the apparent lack of a game-changing Russian offense.

Sijbren de Jong, a Russia expert at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, said the Russians may have decided to play a less aggressive role in the German vote after they “overplayed their hand in the U.S.” For a variety of reasons, de Jong said, direct interference in German elections would be a risky bet. Not least are the economic considerations for two countries that remain close trading partners, despite sanctions that Merkel has championed. “The German economy is a large market for key Russian companies,” he said. “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Nor do you meddle in a vote where the outcome appears preordained. Several German parties — including the far-right AfD, the center-left Social Democrats and the far-left Die Linke, or the Left — have far more Moscow-friendly policies than the ones espoused by Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

But even after 12 years of Merkel, German voters appear in little mood to shake up the system and veer away from her studied centrism. “The intention [of Russia] is to destabilize European society,” said Annegret Bendiek, an analyst with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “In Germany, that’s not so easy.” Bendiek said it is still possible that in the waning days of the campaign, Russian operatives will try to unsettle things. But she’s doubtful. Even the hacked Bundestag documents may never see the light of day, if only because the people who stole them may have concluded that they wouldn’t change anything if they did. Hacking into the inner sanctum of German politics was one thing. But finding anything salacious or tawdry among what are likely to be hundreds of thousands of tedious policy documents, Bendiek said, is quite another. “It’s been my job for 10 years to read these kinds of documents,” she said. “You can’t imagine. They are so boring.”
© The Washington Post.


Turkey says citizens face 'racist treatment' in Germany

Turkey on Saturday asked citizens to be "cautious" in Germany and stay away from political gatherings ahead of this month's election, as tensions ratcheted between the Nato allies.

10/9/2017- Ties have plummeted since last year's attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Germany's strong criticism of an ensuing crackdown which saw more than 50,000 people arrested. Relations further deteriorated after the detention of several German citizens including Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for the Die Welt newspaper. The Turkish foreign ministry urged citizens living in Germany or planning to travel there "to be cautious, taking into account the situation in Germany where they could risk xenophobic or racist treatment". It asked them to "stay away from political debates, political party gatherings ahead of the general election" on September 24.

Ankara claimed there was "discrimination" against Turks "on the basis of their political views", which has led to "verbal attacks against some of our citizens". Erdogan last month urged Turks in Germany not to vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) or the Greens, as they were "enemies of Turkey", enraging German politicians. Merkel on Sunday provoked a wave of anger in Turkey and claims of German "populism" after she said she would seek to end talks on Ankara's accession to the European Union.
© AFP.


French Jewish family beaten in anti-Semitic home invasion

A French Jewish leader and his family were assaulted in their home near Paris in what representatives of French Jewry said was an anti-Semitic attack.

10/9/2017- In the attack Thursday night, three men, two of whom were wearing masks, broke into the home of Roger Pinto, the president of Siona, a group that represents Sephardic Jews. The attackers beat Pinto’s son and wife in the home in the northeastern suburb of Livry Gargan, the Dreuz news website reported Sunday. One of the attackers said: “You Jews have money,” according to the family members. The family members told police that the attackers, who they said were black men in their 20s or 30s, took their credit cards and jewelry, interrogated them for hours about additional items them could steal and threatened to kill them. The men ran away after Roger Pinto managed to discretely call rescue services on a mobile phone. The Pintos were taken to hospital for treatment. They suffered some minor injuries and were deeply traumatized, the report said.

The incident, one of several cases in France in recent years in which criminals apparently singled out Jews based on the belief that they have money, provoked passionate condemnations from the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. Both groups said the incident was an anti-Semitic attack. Bernard-Henri Levy, the French Jewish philosopher, agreed, writing on Twitter Sunday: “Shocked by the anti-Semitic attack Friday night [sic] in Livry-Gargan. Solidarity with Roger Pinto and his family, the victims.” In an unusual move, the Israeli ambassador to France, Aliza Bin-Noun, also condemned the incident on Twitter and asserted it was an anti-Semitic attack.

In 2014, three men broke into the home of a Jewish family in Creteil near Paris. One of them raped a young woman there while another guarded her boyfriend, whom they took prisoner. A third took the couple’s credit card to extract cash from an ATM machine. They too allegedly said they targeted the couple because they are Jewish. Occurring amid a major increase in anti-Semitic violence in France accompanying Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza that year, the Creteil incident echoed for many the traumatic murder and torture in 2006 of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish phone salesman who was abducted by a gang led by a career criminal with a history of targeting mostly Jewish victims. Some French Jews regard Halimi’s murder as the turning point in the emergence of a wave of violence against Jews in France and Belgium, in which more than 12 people have died since 2012 in at least three jihadist attacks on Jewish targets.
© JTA News.


UK: Man set his dog on Muslims and ordered it to bite them during 'campaign of racism'

Jakub Wendland, who denies being a racist, has been sent to prison after appearing at Manchester Crown Court

11/9/2017- A man who set his dog on two Muslims during a ‘campaign of racism’ has been caged. Jakub Wendland’s cross breed bull terrier bit a man and left a woman traumatised. During one of the attacks, the 32-year-old shouted: “You bite her, bite her. They kill people. So go on, bite a Muslim.” The Polish national, who denies being a racist, was jailed for two-and-a-half years at Manchester Crown Court. Prosecuting, Christopher Beckwith told the court Bakhtshireen Rehman was bitten by the dog on Stockport Road in Longsight on his way home from a mosque at around 10am on June 25. The court heard Mr Rehman saw Wendland at a bus stop holding a bottle of beer with the dog on a lead.

Wendland asked Mr Rehman if he would open the bottle for him. When he refused, Wendland became aggressive and called the victim a ‘Muslim Kurdi’. Mr Rehman, 26, who is Pakistani British, tried to walk away, but Wendland set the animal on him. He was bitten several times before being punched by Wendland. Mr Rehman ran into the road and flagged down a motorist for help as he desperately tried to fight the dog off. Wendland ran off and got on a bus into Manchester city centre , where he targeted his next victim two hours later. Sundus Mirza, 28, was on her way to work on Market Street at around 12.50pm. The court heard Ms Mirza, who has a fear of dogs, decided to give Wendland and his pet a ‘wide berth’. Wendland followed Ms Mirza, who said she could feel the dog’s head near her legs. Wendland said to his dog: “Go on, bite her, bite her. They kill people, bite her.”

Ms Mirza started screaming before passers-by rushed to help her. Wendland then walked away. Police were called and Wendland was later found in the city centre in an ‘intoxicated state’. While being arrested he spat at two officers and threatened to kill them and their families. Mr Rehman, who suffered bruising to his arm, said he was afraid to go outside. In a statement read to the court, he said: “It has influenced the way I see the world, and it makes me feel there is a lot of racial hatred out there.” Ms Merza said she was ‘petrified’ when Wendland followed her. “The fact that this man tried to get his dog to bite me simply because I am a Muslim is outrageous,” her statement read.

Defending, Simon Blakebrough said Wendland wanted to apologise to his victims and said he had no recollection of the events. Mr Blakebrough Wendland had consumed alcohol for the first time in six months the day before and decided to drink more in a bid to ease his hangover. He said: “He does not consider himself as a racist. He said to me he has never been racist to anyone and can’t believe he behaved in this way.” Wendland, who has worked as a fork lift truck driver, has been in the UK for four years. He said the dog was his ‘best friend’. Judge Tony Cross QC said: “You are, in my judgement, quite clearly a racist. “These were racist attacks, of that there is absolutely no doubt. “This was a campaign of racism carried out over the course of two hours in two separate areas.” Judge Cross also imposed a contingent destruction order, which means the dog will not be put down if suitable accommodation and care is found.

Wendland, of Wray Place, Rochdale , was banned from possessing a dog indefinitely having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of racially aggravated public order offences, one count of common assault and two counts of assaulting a police officer. Kirsty Walls, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “Jakub Wendland used his dog as a weapon as he carried out a series of unprovoked attacks in a busy city centre upon people he considered to be Muslims. “He was heard repeatedly telling the dog to bite Muslims as they kill people. One person was injured, whilst another was placed in tremendous fear of being attacked by the dog. “He then assaulted police officers by spitting at them as they arrested him. “The CPS takes all forms of hate crime very seriously, and presented the case to the court as a religious hate crime. “The judge concluded that the defendant and the offences he committed were racist and sentenced him to two and a half years imprisonment.”
© The Manchester Evening News.


Finn serving in British Army arrested for neo-Nazi activity

A man British officials believe is a Finnish citizen has been detained in Britain and faces charges of several counts of terrorist activities. A member of the British Army, he is accused of membership in the far-right group National Action, banned in Britain last year for its overt neo-Nazi activity.

12/9/2017- Three men, one of whom is believed to be a Finnish citizen, have been detained in Britain for violating the country's terrorism laws. They are suspected of being members of a banned right-wing organisation known as National Action. Two of the three are currently serving in the British Army. citizen. For example, Sky News reports that one of the three men is originally from Finland. The Finnish news agency STT says British police believe one of the soldiers is a Finnish Finland's Foreign Ministry has indicated that it is aware of the case, but will not confirm the man's Finnish citizenship.

The man suspected of being a Finn will face charges for terror offences, and for being in possession of documents likely to be useful to a person preparing to commit an act of terrorism, an activity that was banned in Britain under the Terrorism Act of 2000. He is also accused of publishing threatening, abusive or insulting comments online, with the intention of stirring up racial hatred. Among other media sources, the BBC reports that the 32-year-old defendant also faces charges for possession of pepper spray. The men were arrested last week, and will appear in court hearings on Tuesday in London.

Up to 10 years imprisonment
National Action was banned by the Home Office last year, the first extremist group to be outlawed in Britain since the Second World War. It makes no secret of its neo-Nazi leanings. Members applauded the 2016 murder of British MP Jo Cox by a white supremacist. British law states that people found guilty of membership can face up to ten years in prison. Huffington Post reports that the group has fewer than 100 members, most of whom are under 20 years of age. Two years ago, the group arranged a march in Liverpool, but counter-protesters forced the far-right demonstrators to leave the streets and take refuge in the railway station. The police later shut down the march. HOPE not Hate, a British anti-fascism campaign, says that National Action has remained active despite the ban, and was recruiting and training more members under new names. A representative of the campaign told the Independent four days ago that members of National Action have been seen meeting at a "terror training camp" in a Warrington warehouse in northwest England.
© YLE News.


UK police release two of group arrested over suspected far-right terrorism

Two men arrested on suspicion of belonging to a banned far-right group and planning terrorist acts have been released without charge, British police said on Sunday.

10/9/2017- The men were among five, including some serving soldiers, arrested on Sept. 5 as part of a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation. They were detained on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism and of being members of neo-Nazi organization the National Action group. “Two men arrested by officers from West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit on suspicion of terrorism offences have been released from custody ... without charge following enquiries,” West Midlands Police said in a statement. “Three other men ... continue to remain in police custody. Detectives have been granted extra time to question the men.”
© Reuters


UK: Morata asks Chelsea fans to refrain from singing anti-Semitic chant

9/9/2017- Alvaro Morata has told Chelsea supporters to "respect everyone" after the club condemned a song about the Spaniard that includes an anti-Semitic slur. It was heard during their win against Leicester on Saturday and Morata later indicated he wanted fans to clean up the content of their chants. The club-record acquisition from Real Madrid is establishing himself as a hero at his new club and he headed his third goal of the season to open the scoring on Saturday. But the adulation he receives from some Chelsea fans embodies itself in a song aimed at fierce rivals Tottenham, who have a large Jewish fanbase. "Alvaro, Alvaro. He comes from Madrid, he hates the f****** Y***" sang Chelsea supporters at the King Power Stadium. Chelsea swiftly said Morata wanted to disassociate himself from the song, and the player later wrote on Twitter: "Since I arrived, I have been able to feel your support every single day, you are amazing and I'd like to ask you to please respect everyone!"

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was asked about the song and its content at a post-match press conference but head of communications and public affairs Steve Atkins quickly stepped in. "I don't think Antonio was aware of the song so if I can just speak on behalf of the club," Atkins said. "The club and the players appreciate the fans' passionate support away from home, of course. But the language in that song is not acceptable at all. "We've spoken to Alvaro after the game and he does not want to be connected to that song in any way and both the player and the club request that the supporters stop singing that song with immediate effect." It is not the first such incident involving Chelsea fans. Videos appeared on social media of some supporters singing anti-Semitic songs ahead of their FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham in April, while videos also emerged of some Chelsea fans pushing a black commuter off a Metro train in Paris in February 2015 ahead of a Champions League tie.
© RTE News


Northern Ireland: Nazi memorabilia on sale at Dublin auction house despite holocaust survivor's objections

Nazi memorabilia will go on sale in a Dublin auction house today, despite objections from the son of a holocaust survivor.

9/9/2017- Oliver Sears, a local gallery owner, described Whyte’s auctioneer’s decision to trade in Nazi memorabilia as “utterly tasteless.” Speaking to the BBC, Mr Sears told of how his mother, Monika Sears (76) was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. At just six years-old Mr Sears was placed on a train to an “extermination camp” Treblinka, but escaped. A number of his family members died in Auschwitz. He described the fascination with Nazi memorabilia as “strange” and suggested they be donated to a museum. "What distinguishes this kind of symbolism from any other military is that these symbols are used by hundreds of far right groups," he said.

Mr Sears’ art gallery is located at 29 Molesworth Street, while Whyte’s Auctioneers and Valuers, who are auctioning off the memorabilia, is located just a few doors down at 38 Molesworth Street. Nine items will be on sale today as part of Whyte’s The Eclectic Collector auction, including a Nazi sash, an Anschluss campaign leaflet, a child’s helmet and various German army daggers. Managing Director, Ian Whyte, defended the company’s decision to go ahead with the sale, despite Mr Sears’ protests. contacted Mr Whyte, though he declined to comment on the situation and referred back to comments he gave the BBC on the subject. He told the BBC that he believed it was a “form of censorship to say collectors cannot collect what they like provided it is legal.”

He added that Whyte’s would only make a “tiny amount” from the items Mr Sears objected to and said that he did not see a connection between “collectors and neo-Nazis.” Mr Sears previously approached Mr Whyte and requested that he not go ahead with the sale. He also suggested the proceeds be donated to charity, or that the company post a message to the website, distancing themselves from the Third Reich. Mr Whyte refused, saying “we don't pass comment on what we sell, we describe it, we make sure it is genuine and that it is legal to sell.” "To me it is a matter of principle, I do not agree with banning collectibles on the basis of political things," he said.
© The Irish Independent


Headlines 8 September, 2017

Finns Party vetoed anti-racism line in joint leaders' statement

The Finns Party vetoed an anti-racism line in a joint party leaders' statement this week, opening cracks in the broad front agreed on Wednesday calling for a "peaceful, fact-based, respectful discussion" on immigration and security issues.

8/9/2017- There is already discord over a joint statement by Finnish political party leaders agreed on Wednesday, in which they aimed to calm heated rhetoric in debate over security and immigration following last month's attacks in Turku. The statement condemned terrorism, violence and hate speech, and also called for a "peaceful, fact-based, respectful discussion" of immigration. The Finns Party representative at the talks has revealed that she refused to sanction wording that would have explicitly condemned racism. "We should join together to oppose terrorists' hate speech against the west," said Huhtasaari. "The word 'racism' would not have been appropriate."

Anti-immigration, evolution
Huhtasaari has been nominated to be the Finns Party candidate in January's presidential election, as leader Jussi Halla-aho declined to stand. The first-term MP from Pori is a critic of immigration and the theory of evolution, and a former schoolteacher. According to Huhtasaari, she believes the wording of the declaration condemning hate speech was directed at people inciting terror attacks. "This joint statement was made so that every party could commit to it and that's why it was vague," said Huhtasaari. "To me, hate speech means the hate directed at western countries at this moment."

Universal condemnation
On Thursday Huhtasaari was reprimanded by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for criticising Muslim immigration and 'Islamic values' in her speech during the first debate after the state opening of parliament. "Representative Huhtasaari, we were in the same meeting," said Sipilä. "We condemned all types of hate speech then." Hate speech is a contested term, but the European council's committee of ministers defines it as covering all forms of expressions that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance.
© YLE News.


Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site ban provokes debate over online censorship

The recent growth in political extremism online has resulted in increased public pressure for greater internet regulation. As corporations and governments start to respond, more voices are demanding a thorough debate.

8/9/2017= The removal of the neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer from the web following the violence at a neo-nazi march in Charlottesville last month has ignited a fierce debate about internet censorship. The highly inflammatory publication, whose name is a play on the German Nazi party's tabloid newspaper Der Stürmer, had been online since 2013. It was judged to have overstepped the mark in the aftermath of Charlottesville when it published an article mocking and abusing Heather Heyer who was killed by a car attack directed at counter-protesters to the far-right rally. Within hours, GoDaddy, a web hosting company, cut ties with the website forcing it to find another host. Google and other web companies, including Cloudfare and Zoho, soon followed. This left the site with nowhere to go but the so-called "dark web."

Some groups, such as the digital-rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), have expressed concern at the tougher approach American sites have since taken towards extremist content. "All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others," EFF wrote on its website. In Germany, discussion has focused more on government rather than corporate censorship, with much controversy surrounding the Interior Ministry's decision on August 25 to ban the far-left website Indymedia. The decision, which came in the wake of a law passed in June that allows the German government to fine social media companies for failing to remove hate speech within 24 hours of receiving a notification, signifies the greater willingness of governments to interfere with the internet. "This legislation has set a new standard for online regulation," said Heidi Beirich, an expert on extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center. She thinks that governments across Europe will probably follow Germany in clamping down on extremist content on the web.

US: little government action
One notable anomaly to the trend of growing government censorship is the US. This can partly be attributed to its unique free speech culture, a product of the First Amendment, which renders any government regulation of speech anathema. Yet the most significant reason for the US's different online climate is a piece of legislation called Section 230, which grants US-based internet companies legal immunity from being charged for users' crimes. There are a few extreme exceptions to this rule such as cases of child pornography. According to Jillian York, director for International Freedom of Expression at the EFF, Section 230 has allowed a far more open discourse on the web than in European countries.

York is particularly distrustful of government interference amid ongoing political efforts to amend Section 230 to enable more federal control over the online sphere. "I don't want the government to change Section 230 as we risk losing the better parts of it," she explained. "It is very important to protect Internet companies from liability." Beirich shares the same suspicion of greater government control. "Government has historically been the discriminator in the American case," she said, citing the case of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Both Beirich and York disapprove of the German Interior Ministry's decision to remove Indymedia from the web and do not think that German-style government regulation will come to the US.

Silicon dilemma
Section 230, while a huge benefit to small companies as it lets them avoid messy legal battles, also has its significant drawbacks according to York. "It lets Facebook and other large Internet companies have too much power," she said. The legislation grants online outlets total freedom to regulate their own content, and as the First Amendment only covers the public sphere, Facebook, Google and the rest can feasibly censor what they wish. Yet according to Beirich, the events surrounding Charlottesville changed attitudes in Silicon Valley over night and large US firms are now beginning to censor extremist material. "Why fight to keep white supremacy online? It's not good for public relations," she said. In light of the horrific violence at Charlottesville and the related spread of the so-called "alt-right" online, both York and Beirich sympathize with the increased pressure on Silicon Valley to censor far-right voices on the web.

Yet York is bothered that the same people demanding greater censorship do not appear concerned about the amount of power these companies wield. "I think it's dangerous to say these companies should be engaging in censorship without also ensuring that companies need to be transparent," she said. What would a more transparent process look like? York, and the EFF more generally, wants to see due process for all users. "That includes Neo-Nazis, but it's better than the current system," she said. According to York, online users are currently arbitrarily blocked from various sites often by an algorithm or low-level outsourced content worker without the right of appeal. For Beirich, the goal of creating a universally recognized legal framework for regulating the online sphere - in Europe and in the US - is now more important than ever. "That is the main issue that now needs to be addressed," she said.
© The Deutsche Welle*


French say Marine Le Pen a 'hindrance' to Front National as far-Right leader returns to quell feud

8/9/2017- Marine Le Pen is a hindrance to her party for the majority of French, a poll has shown, as the beleaguered Front National leader sought to quell a deepening party feud in the wake of her presidential defeat. The poll coincided with the far-Right leader's prime time media return three months after being trounced by Emmanuel Macron following a catastrophic finale to her presidential campaign. Some 52 per cent of the French found Ms Le Pen, 49, who is also an MP, a "handicap" for the Front National (FN), according to the Odoxa-Denstus consulting poll. However, only 40 per cent of the French saw her niece, the young, telegenic Marion Maréchal-Le Pen a hindrance. Ms Maréchal-Le Pen has withdrawn from politics to spend more time with her family.

On holiday, and suffering from "back ache", Ms Le Pen had remained all but silent for the past two months as tensions mounted between top FN brass over who was to blame for her electoral failure, raising speculation that her populist movement may implode. The feud is pitting Florian Philippot, 35, Ms Le Pen’s number two in her campaign, against the party’s other five vice-presidents, including Louis Aliot, Ms Le Pen’s partner. The anti-Philippot camp blame him for her defeat, saying he wrongly focused on pulling France out of the euro rather than anti-immigration, the party's stock in trade. They started gunning for Mr Philippot in July after he launched his own anti-EU, statist movement, the Patriots.

Robert Ménard, a prominent city mayor who is aligned with the Front, questioned whether she could continue as leader, saying her credibility had been undermined by a string of electoral defeats. She should start by "sacking" Mr Philippot, he said. "It's like in sport: a team that loses three matches in a row (regional, presidential and legislative elections) must ask itself whether it has the right manager." Her prolonged absence after winning her first parliamentary seat in June has left a boulevard for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the radical left France Unbowed, to claim leadership of the opposition to Mr Macron. Despite having more parliamentary seats, the mainstream Socialists and conservatives are still reeling from electoral defeats and are barely audible.

A poll at the weekend showed that 45 per cent of voters see Mr Mélenchon and France Unbowed as the main opposition. Only 21 per cent backed Ms Le Pen. In a prime time TV interview on Thursday night, the FN leader defended party members' "right to criticise" as long as they remained "constructive". Today (Sat) she will launch the party's autumn return to work with a visit to Brachay, a tiny village in eastern France that has voted almost exclusively FN in recent elections. Despite her drop in credibility there are no serious contenders to topple her as party leader. Gilbert Collard, an influential FN MP said: "The alternative to Marine Le Pen is Marine Le Pen." Her father warned that her biggest threat came from the likely election of the nationalist, anti-immigration Laurent Wauquiez as leader of the mainstream Right-wing Republicans in December.
© The Telegraph


Norway: Neo-Nazis Increase Their Activities: Training with Weapons

Right-wing extremist groups have increased their activities across the country since summer. Norwegian Jews believe politicians do not take the rise of right-wing extremism seriously.

8/9/2017- Right-wing extremist groups have increased their activities across the country since summer. Norwegian Jews believe politicians do not take the rise of right-wing extremism seriously. TV2 reports right-wing extremist groups increase their activities in Norway. Since their march in Kristiansand in July 2017, they are more active in propaganda and activities. Their propaganda film shows how they threaten the police and continue their march. In the film, Neo-nazis march further while the police are watching. They also publish images of places where they have actions. Moreover they openly brag about how they train to fight, with and without weapons. This development worries Norwegian Jews, according to TV2. Ervin Kohn is a Jew and leader of the Mosaic community in Norway. His mother and father survived the Holocaust. Talking to TV2, he says Norwegian politicians do not have enough focus on right-wing extremism in the election campaign. – The silence is worrying. Political leaders do not react to the rise of neo-Nazis. That silence concerns me more than the hateful expressions, says he. He believes Norwegian Neo-Nazi groups get inspired from similar movements in the United States, the national front in France, and the stronger Nordic resistance movement in Sweden.

Integration Minister Spreads Fear
Kohn also accuses Norway’s immigration and integration minister Sylvi Listhaug. – Some of what Sylvi Listhaug does create fear in the scoiety, says he. Norway has no action plan against racism and right-wing extremism, Kohn thinks. On the other hand, Listhaug does not agree that she creates fear. – I contribute to a real debate about the challenges we face in Norwegian society, says Listhaug to TV 2.

Flagship of Neo-Nazi Groups in Norway
Nordic Resistance Movement (DNM) is a profiled Neo-Nazi group in both Norway and the Nordic region. In July, they had an illegal march in Kristiansand. Around 70 neo-nazi participated in the demonstration. Most of them came from Sweden, where the group is the best organized and most hierarchical in the Nordic region. Several hundred protesters from DNM marched in Stockholm in November 2016. In July this year, three members of DNM were convicted of bomb attacks against refugees and a left-wing group in Gothenburg. In January 2017 a bomb exploded outside an asylum reception and a cleaner was seriously injured. In the same month, a bomb was found outside another asylum reception. And in November last year a bomb exploded outside the premises of a left-wing group. It was later revealed that the group members received military training in Russia before the bomb attacks, by an organization that is linked to a Russian neo-Nazi group working with the Nordic resistance movement.
© The Nordic Page


Norway: Young generation revulsed by Breivik may sway election

Young Norwegians, politicized by the massacre of 77 people by far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik, will play a key role in an election next week that could hinge on issues close to their hearts such as climate change.

6/9/2017- In 2011 Breivik killed eight people in a bombing in central Oslo and gunned down another 69 at a Labour Party youth camp on Utoeya Island, in the worst attacks in Norway since World War Two. They motivated a generation of young people, often children or teenagers at the time, to become more involved in mainstream politics - both on the left and the right - in a backlash against his xenophobic and anti-Muslim world view. And data shows young voters are now more likely than in the past to actually cast their ballots. “I felt so powerless that day. It was a way to fight back,” said Anja Ariel Toernes Brekke, 21, who joined the youth wing of the Labour Party a few weeks after Breivik’s attacks. She is now the general secretary of the far-left Red party’s youth wing. “I wanted to prove that the left was not weakened, that there would be people with those beliefs to replace those who had died,” she told Reuters.

Brekke is touring schools in Norway to get the youth vote out. On a recent morning, she was at the Cathedral School in Hamar, 120 km (75 miles) north of Oslo, to take part in a debate with other young politicians in front of 1,250 high-school students packed in a gym hall. “Our society is more unequal. What we lack is justice. We need a new politics,” she told the crowd, to applause. Her party, the Reds, could be one of several kingmakers in Monday’s parliamentary election, in which the right-wing bloc of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg is neck-and-neck in opinion polls with an opposition grouping led by Jonas Gahr Stoere’s Labour. Younger voters tend to care more than the average Norwegian about issues such as schools, climate change and the environment, especially linked to Norway’s oil and gas production, researchers say.

Keener on Politics
The trend has been called “Generation Utoeya” by the political scientist who identified it, Johannes Bergh at the Institute of Social Research in Oslo. According to Bergh’s research, published in the 2015 book “The Vote and Voters” he co-edited with Bernt Aardal, some 13.8 percent of first-time voters said they belonged to a party in 2013, the last time a parliamentary election took place, up from 6.0 percent in 2009. This more-than-doubling was higher than the increase reported for all voters, to 9.3 percent from 7.2 percent, and it was spread across the political spectrum - not just for Labour, the target of Breivik’s attack. “It did come as a surprise. We had sort of expected that young people would (go) for Labour,” Bergh told Reuters. “We saw a spike in the membership of the youth wing of the Labour party immediately after the attacks. But the same thing happened with the Conservatives too.

The attacks were an attack on Norwegian democracy, not on a political party.” Young people are also voting more since “July 22” - the common shorthand for the killings by Breivik, who is serving a 21-year jail term that can be extended indefinitely. At the last election in 2013, 66.5 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds cast ballots, up more than 10 percentage points from 2009. Parties are paying more attention to this young constituency. “Politicians have to listen to young people and have to make an effort to appeal to young people,” said Bergh. In the longer term, he believes the Utoeya generation effect will help ensure the renewal of democracy in Norway. “It is going to be positive. Once young people start voting, they tend to continue later in life.”

“Norway Must Become Green”
The future of Norway’s oil industry has emerged as a key issue for voters this time around. The small but growing Green Party, which pledges to stop oil exploration and phase out production within 15 years, is emerging as a potential key in deciding who will get to govern the Scandinavian country. It was certainly on the mind of some first-time voters in Hamar. “We need to phase out oil production and respect the Paris climate agreement,” said 17-year-old student Signe Dahl. “We need to turn Norway into an environmental nation from an oil nation,” she told Reuters. Dahl, who can vote as she is turning 18 later this year, said she had whittled down her choice of party to between the Green Party and the Reds. Her friend Silje Fugleberg, 18, agreed: “We must think about other resources to use than oil. We must think about Norway’s future and the environment.” Before the debate, she was considering voting either for the Socialist Left Party or the Red Party. After the debate and listening to Brekke, “I think I have decided and will vote for the Reds,” she said.
© Reuters


Austria's Freedom Party criticizes ECJ ruling on migrant quotas

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) on Thursday criticized the European Union’s top court for upholding Brussels’ right to force member states to take in asylum-Seekers, calling the quota system an “immigration program”.

7/9/2017- Heinz-Christian Strache, whose anti-immigrant party could become kingmaker in next month’s parliamentary election, took sides with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “It simply cannot be that states lose their right to self-determination and decision-making when it comes to receiving (asylum-seekers),” Strache said in a panel discussion in Vienna. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) dismissed complaints by Hungary and Slovakia against the quota system on Wednesday. The European Commission said it might seek fines at the ECJ within weeks for Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic unless they take people from Italy and Greece. “The (EU) program is not a refugee program but an immigration program,” said Strache, who has repeatedly called for “zero and minus immigration”.

The veteran party chief drew attention to remarks by U.N. peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura. “The U.N. Special Representative pointed out the war in Syria is over,” Strache said. “We all know, asylum is a temporary protection, which applies for as long as there is persecution. But if that’s no longer the case, one actually has to take care of going back home.” The Freedom Party’s popularity rose to a high during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, when it denounced the government’s decision to open Austria’s borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants. It led polls for more than a year, until Sebastian Kurz took the helm of the conservative People’s Party in May. Kurz, who also has a hard stance on migration, has been leading polls ahead of the Oct. 15 election with just over 30 percent. The Freedom Party and center-left Social Democrats trail with around 25 percent each. Austria’s system of proportional representation is likely to produce another coalition government, and observers say Kurz’s and Strache’s parties are likely to join forces.
© Reuters


Italy: Controversy over planned far-right march in Rome

Raggi opposes Forza Nuova plan to commemorate Mussolini march.

7/9/2017- A planned demonstration in central Rome by far-right political party Forza Nuova (FN) faces opposition from the city's mayor Virginia Raggi as well as Rome members of the centre-left Partito Democratico. Italy's interior minister Marco Minniti is under pressure to ban the demonstration which is planned for 28 October. The FN chose this date to commemorate the 95th anniversary of Mussolini's March on Rome, in 1922, which marked the beginning of fascist rule in Italy. Mayor Raggi tweeted "the #MarchOnRome cannot and must not be repeated" while the PD say the proposed event "risks turning into a tragic day for our country". However FN leader Roberto Fiore described the planned march as "a patriotic demonstration, not pro-fascist or nostalgic," warning that the interior ministry would be wrong to ban the event. The controversy follows a decision by Rome police chief Guido Marino to ban the FN from staging a so-called "security walk" in the capital's Tiburtino III neighbourhood on the evening of 8 September, the anniversary of the day when Italy signed the armistice with the Allied forces in 1943 and abandoned Rome to the German forces. The Tiburtino III area was the scene of recent clashes between locals and residents of a migrant centre during which an Eritrean man was stabbed in the back.
© Wanted in Rome


Macedonia's Former Ruling Party Accused of Inflaming Xenophobia Ahead of Local Elections

The anti-migrant campaign has led to violence against some journalists

6/9/2017- Ahead of the local elections that will take place in October, Macedonia's former ruling party is building upon its legacy of fear mongering by stepping up the propaganda about the supposed threat posed by refugees from the Middle East. The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) was Macedonia's ruling party in the past decade. On May 31, 2017, a new coalition government led by Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) was established. But the former ruling party has retained control of most municipal governments and even media outlets. Through veiled statements by its leaders, and also through proxy groups on social media, it continues the propaganda based on fear, fomenting ethnic hatred between the (mostly Christian) ethnic Macedonians and other ethnic communities within Macedonia, in particular, the (mostly Muslim) ethnic Albanians.

When the party failed to form a coalition with ethnic Albanian parties, it attempted to blame the latter, as well as the West and civil society for conspiracy to dismember the country by dividing it into cantons (like Bosnia) or federalizing it into territories that can later secede and join Albania. The latest iteration of this campaign incites fear of migrants which is believed to be intended to mobilize support for the dwindling political base of VMRO-DPMNE. When the new government announced public consultations for the purpose of updating the National Strategy for Integration of Refugees and Foreigners in Republic of Macedonia 2017-2027, VMRO-DPMNE quickly denounced it as an unnecessary program for the building of settlements for refugees. VMRO-DPMNE is also accused of using proxy groups in its anti-migrant campaign to avoid legal and political backlash. For example, the group “Awakening” has been posting messages on Facebook that criticize the government's settlement program by demonizing refugees:

SDSM government plans to build apartments and massive settlement of migrants. That means the migrants will be present in our neighborhood. They will go to school with our children, they will take your workplace. Settling of migrants means an increase of crime rate and violence, also.
Awakening! No to migrants

What “Awakening” didn't mention is that the government's strategy is almost similar to what VMRO-DPMNE had been implementing since 2008 when it was the country's ruling party. During the 2016 election campaign, VMRO-DPMNE even cited the building of 20 apartments for refugees who had been granted asylum as part of its accomplishments.

In response, the new government maintained that Macedonia will remain a transit country for refugees, and not a destination like Germany. In recent years, only 15 asylum seekers had asked to remain in Macedonia. The country's Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Dimitrov tweeted:
Since June 1, I had hundreds of meetings. Not one, NOT ONE person I've talked to had asked that Macedonia to be a destination country for settling refugees. #fact 
The anti-migrant campaign espoused by VMRO-DPMNE could be one of the factors for the low opinion about accepting migrants in Macedonia. A recent Gallup poll showed that Macedonia is the least accepting country for migrants in the world.

Another example of how VMRO-DPMNE has used the refugee crisis for propaganda was its hiring of the United States-based New Partners Consulting Inc. in 2015 to publicize “Macedonia's, and in particular [former] Prime Minister Gruevski's, role in the epicenter of the refugee crisis and the need for increased cooperation and resources from other NGOs and international partners.” This was disclosed on the website of the Foreign Agents Registration Act which lists American companies engaged in lobbying for foreign powers. One of the results of this deal, which cost 54,000 US dollars, was the publication on Newsweek of an opinion piece entitled “We Must Work Together to Help The Migrants,” officially penned by party leader Gruevski on December 10, 2015. Providing a typical example of doublethink, many VMRO-DPMNE supporters seem unfazed by the contradictory positions of the party: advocating help for refugees on one hand (abroad), to reversing the stance on the National Strategy on Integration, to demonizing migrants, albeit through ‘unofficial’ channels aimed at the home audience.

The recent campaign to whip up anti-migrant sentiment has been criticized by some netizens as “fascist”. For instance, the youth branch of VMRO-DPMNE from Štip (on the right) remixed photos of a local school and school children from some Middle Eastern country wearing robes and headscarves, and urging readers to prevent an Islamic invasion or mass conversion to Islam in schools. Furthermore, groups such as “Awakening” and “You must come outside, too!” had been collecting signatures for anti-migrant petitions in various municipalities during the last few weeks, in particular, in municipalities where VMRO-DPMNE has a majority in the town council. Human rights organization Macedonian Helsinki Committee has publicly warned that these groups are openly inflaming hate speech and xenophobia. Investigative journalists also reported that VMRO-DPMNE has been ordering its loyalists, including civil servants and public school teachers to sign these petitions. When journalists tried to call the owner of the phone number used to send text messages in the name of the local party committee inviting members to come and sign the petition, the person denied having ties to the party.

In Skopje, when the Nova TV journalist Saška Cvetkovska asked “Awakening” activists collecting signatures who they are, and what they intend to do with the sensitive personal data collected from citizens, which include their Unique Master Citizen Numbers (similar to the US social security number), she received no clear reply. The person collecting the data merely said that she's a member of VMRO-DPMNE. Afterwards, a man who was later identified as an employee of the Municipality of Aerodrom attacked the journalist and her cameraman in an attempt to stop them from continuing their report. Unlike in the past, when such cases of media attacks enjoyed impunity, the authorities pressed charges against the attacker of Nova TV journalists a week after the assault. Another news item by Telma TV on August 24 showed that the logistics for taking the signatures, including the chairs, tables and the collected data are stored in the local political party offices, indicating direct connection between the VMRO-DPMNE and the supposedly “grassroots” initiative.

Last week, these anti-migrant petitions had been used as basis by city councils in Štip, Kavadarci, Karpoš and other municipalities to initiate local referendums against the settling of refugees within their jurisdictions. Scheduled to take place around the local elections, such referendums can potentially disrupt the local political situation, aside from incurring significant additional cost for taxpayers. In case the referendums are conducted simultaneously with the elections, they could potentially combine the issue of hatred against the (Muslim) migrants with the voting for local councils, presumably swaying some of the (Christian) voters who would otherwise not directly support nationalist candidates. According to the Macedonian Criminal Code, some forms of hate speech are considered a felony, but their perpetrators had enjoyed impunity under the former government. Activists are worried that anti-migrant propaganda might continue to intensify with the approaching campaign period for the local elections.
© Global Voices


Grassroots solidarity against EU-wide rise in hate crimes

Hate speech, racist acts, anti-Semitic violence and assaults on LGBT people: in recent years, discriminatory violence has skyrocketed. Local actors in Europe are making the most of their imagination to face them. EURACTIV France reports.

5/9/2017- In Charlottesville in August, a racist demonstration sparked widespread indignation and condemnation around the world. Starting with Europe, where heads of state were the first to condemn the US president for not clearly denouncing the racism of the American right-wing. “Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are poisons for our societies,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. As a European, he was proud of the values conveyed by the Europe of the Enlightenment: “tolerance, respect for others, and the importance of the recognition of diversity”. But the Charlottesville incident is not isolated, and discriminatory violence is not a prerogative of the United States. Official data show an upsurge in anti-Semitic violence in a majority of EU member states between 2005 and 2015.

An ad hoc working group against hate crimes
Discrimination has multiplied on the Old Continent: attacks on refugee centres, attacks on LGBT people, anti-Semitism, hate speech against Roma and the disabled or stigmatization of Muslims. This trend is a matter of great concern to the European Commission. In June 2016, Justice Commissioner Vìra Jourová launched a high-level group to combat racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. According to her, “the current situation is an unprecedented societal challenge for Europe”. The platform aims to increase synergies among all stakeholders, develop strategies to combat racism and intolerance, and collect data on hate crimes. “Too often, people are harassed, threatened, or verbally or physically assaulted because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability,” the Commissioner said. In Germany, for example, the number of incidents targeting centres housing asylum-seekers has increased from 62 in 2012 to 1,610 in 2015. The EU’s many laws against racism and xenophobia clearly show their limitations: seldom enforced, they are not an effective deterrent.

Pruning prejudices
Prevention on the ground, therefore, seems more effective and many local authorities are mobilizing against discrimination together with associations. In Austria, as elsewhere in the EU, the wave of solidarity for the refugees lasted only a few months before being carried away by the negative rhetoric of the political class and extreme right groups as well as the amalgamations of all kinds generated by the terrorist attacks in several European cities. To counteract the phenomenon, Antonia Titscher, with the help of friends and students, set up a community garden project, with the aim of entrusting the plots of land to asylum seekers in Sankt Pölten, the capital of Lower Austria. The project began in February 2013: the municipality allowed them to manage part of a park in the city, and one of the students started a crowdfunding campaign to raise 800 euros to buy seeds, plants, and some tools.

Although they have little experience in gardening, they take care of the organisation and the gardeners/refugees share their expertise in the field. “We say ‘gardeners’ and not ‘asylum seekers’, because integration begins there, by not stigmatizing a specific group of people,” says Antonia Titscher. “Of course, we focus on immigrants but the garden is open to the entire community. Some neighbours come to see us and ask us if they can plant something and the communication starts, in German”. Persuaded that gardening has therapeutic effects against the trauma suffered by refugees in their exodus, Antonia says this activity also gives a function to the asylum seekers, who are not allowed to work. “It allows them to express themselves and feel valued because they are doing something they can do,” she adds. The team has just finished its fourth season of vegetable harvest. Each year, the project receives more and more requests, and usually, gardener families or gardeners alone share their plot with friends or family. When winter arrives, gardening is paused, but the team is already preparing next season while organising dinners, meetings, and excursions.

In Italy, a Chagall expo for the homeless
In Italy, it was art rather than gardening that inspired the creation of the Happy Centre in Bologna. Its objective is to promote exchanges and interactions between the homeless and local residents. The association wants to put an end to stereotypes about homelessness and their marginalization. In the morning, they can come to the centre to drink coffee, read the newspaper, surf the Internet, play chess, and the afternoon is reserved for activities mixing everyone: philosophy, sewing, theatre. “The Happy Centre’s goal is to restore confidence in the homeless and to show them that they are able to do things,” says Martina Bonato, the Centre’s coordinator. A few months ago, while a museum in Milan was exhibiting Chagall’s works, the homeless of the centre studied the catalogues of the exhibition in order to be the guides. Bologna residents wishing to take part in the excursion paid a small sum which covered journey costs of the homeless who guided them through the museum. “This is not education in the formal sense; here residents and the homeless are on the same level. They talk together, they learn together, help each other and discuss philosophy together. What we want is integration,” she says.

The association targeted the homeless but soon realized that the centre would become a community centre. And the municipality, which finances the project, seems to realize this too. “Being located in an area dense with social housing, we see elderly people who feel lonely, migrants and so on,” says Martina Bonato. Migrants wanting to learn Italian, homeless people wanting to learn English – language exchanges are quickly organized. “We also gave the keys to a group of elderly people to meet at 8 am to do gymnastics, for both muscles and neurons. Before this, they did it in the bar next door, at least now they have a place”. Projects that multiply all over Europe: dozens of such experiences are recorded from Poland to the United Kingdom, from Germany to Estonia, mostly thanks to European funding, difference and diversity is an integral part of the European project. But in the face of extreme right-wing groups or the defenders of Brexit who promote withdrawal, the European Social Fund for employment and inclusion still has some work to do.
© EuroActiv


UK: One in five LGBT people victims of hate crime, research finds

More than a fifth of LGBT people have been victims of hate crime in the past year, new research has found.

7/9/2017- Leading charity Stonewall found 21 per cent of the UK’s LGBT population had experienced abuse such as insults, unwanted sexual contact and violence - compared to just 16 per cent in 2013. The figure was almost double for transgender people alone, with 41 per cent of people experiencing hate crime in relation to their gender. Despite the shocking rise, only 81 per cent of respondents to the survey who had been abused informed the police. Stonewall's chief executive Ruth Hunt said: "While we have come so far in the past 25 years, it is clear that much must still be done before all LGBT people can feel safe, included and free to be themselves in Britain today. "These findings warn against complacency, and stand as a call to action.” The survey of 5,000 members of the LGBT community in England, Scotland and Wales, carried out by YouGov, included case studies in which victims spoke of being attacked in numerous different environments, ranging from in bars to when trying to find a house.

The organisation has called for the Home Office to review hate crime laws to give them parity with those based on race and faith. David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "All hate crime is abhorrent. LGBT people, like everyone else, have the right to live safely in the community.” Minister for countering extremism, Baroness Williams of Trafford, said: "All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and those who commit these awful crimes should be met with the full force of the law. "We are clear there can be absolutely no excuse for targeting someone because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We put victims at the heart of everything we do, which is why we work closely with partners to support victims of LGBT hate crime."
© The Evening Standard.


UK: Islamophobia holding back Muslims in workplace, study finds

One in five Muslim adults in full-time work compared with 35% of overall population, Social Mobility Commission says

7/9/2017- Muslim men and women are being held back in the workplace by widespread Islamophobia, racism and discrimination, according to a study which finds that Muslim adults are far less likely to be in full-time work. Research for the government’s social mobility watchdog, shared exclusively with the Guardian, found a strong work ethic and high resilience among Muslims that resulted in impressive results in education.However, that was not translated into the workplace, with only 6% of Muslims breaking through into professional jobs, compared with 10% of the overall population in England and Wales. The study found 19.8% of Muslims aged 16-to-74 were in full-time employment, compared with 34.9% of the overall population. The research also found evidence of women being encouraged by their communities to focus on marriage and motherhood rather than gaining employment. Overall, 18% of Muslim women aged 16 to 74 were recorded as “looking after home and family”, compared with 6% of the overall female population.

Academics cited a number of barriers to success, including:
# Students face stereotyping and low expectations from teachers and a lack of Muslim staff or other role models in the classroom.
# Minority ethnic-sounding names reduce the likelihood of people being offered an interview.
# Young Muslims routinely fear becoming targets of bullying and harassment and feel forced to work “10 times as hard” as their white counterparts to get on.
# Women wearing headscarfs face particular discrimination once entering the workplace.

Alan Milburn, the former cabinet minister who now heads the government-sponsored Social Mobility Commission, said the research painted a disturbing picture. “The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. Unfortunately, for many young Muslims in Britain today this promise is being broken,” he said. Calling for action by the government, communities, educators and employers, Milburn said: “Young Muslims themselves identify cultural barriers in their communities and discrimination in the education system and labour market as some of the principal obstacles that stand in their way. Young Muslim women face a specific challenge to maintain their identity while seeking to succeed in modern Britain.”

Prof Jacqueline Stevenson, of Sheffield Hallam University, which led the research, said: “Muslims are being excluded, discriminated against or failed at all stages of their transition from education to employment. Taken together, these contributory factors have profound implications for social mobility.” Stevenson told the Guardian that the research highlighted routine examples of Muslim men and women failing to secure jobs that were commensurate with their skills and qualifications. The research involved a series of in-depth focus groups across the country through which young Muslims shared their experiences. One woman in Liverpool said her father had suggested “changing her name to help get a job. A female respondent in High Wycombe referred to hearing comments such as “he looked very Muslim” or “look at her, she’s got a scarf on”. Another said they felt that when white children went to school they might fear getting bullied but the thought would occur to all ethnic-minority children.

Farhana Ghaffar, a 25-year-old Muslim woman who acted as a researcher for the study, said she was “incredibly shocked” by the findings. “It ranged from assumptions that they were forced to wear the headscarf to jokes and casual comments in workplace about Muslims. Or every time there was a terror attack there was a feeling of a need to apologise and explain,” she said. Ghaffar talked of difficulties within the workplace, including a culture of drinking alcohol that Muslims were unable to participate in. Raised in London by parents who were economic migrants from Pakistan, Ghaffar said she had been strongly supported by her teachers and then at university, but the research often painted a different picture.

The research aimed to build on a previous report by the commission that found children of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin outperformed other ethnic groups in education but were much less likely to enter managerial or professional jobs. This study aimed to explain what was causing the trend through more in-depth focus groups and statistical analysis. Another government-backed report, by Dame Louise Casey, previously raised the alarm over a lack of social integration in the UK.
© The Guardian.


UK: Banned neo-Nazi terrorist group still active after finding loophole

Members allegedly seen meeting at ‘terror training camp’ within the past week

8/9/2017- Members of the UK’s first ever banned neo-Nazi terrorist group are using a loophole in the law to continue operating despite being outlawed by the Government, it has emerged. National Action is evading authorities by taking on new names – allegedly including Scottish Dawn and NS131 – in a technique used prolifically by Anjem Choudary’s Islamist network. The group was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in December, making being a National Action member a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but a former detective said police are left powerless to arrest neo-Nazis acting under new names. The warning came after five alleged members of National Action – including four serving soldiers – were arrested this week on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism.

Matthew Collins, the head of research at campaign group Hope Not Hate, said known neo-Nazis from National Action were seen meeting at a “terror training camp” in Warrington as recently as last Saturday. “There were 10 of them in there training,” he told The Independent. “They believe they’re untouchable, they laugh at the police.” The warehouse, which sits next to a children's playground on an industrial estate, has been converted into a gym and office. Undercover footage has shown neo-Nazis training with wooden knives and baseball bats, learning mixed martial arts and listening to lectures on “white jihad”. Mr Collins said National Action has focused on Muslims but is fundamentally antisemitic, propagating Jewish conspiracy theories while fostering a “deep obsession with violence”. “They believe they’re going to be involved in some kind of war,” Mr Collins said. “This is preparation – they believe it’s necessary because there’s going to be a race war, which will be triggered by Islamist terrorist attacks, and then they will lead legions of white people into war against Jews.”

The group was known for using the phrases “Hitler was right” and “Britain is ours, the rest must go” at marches, and online propaganda included images showing members performing Hitler salutes inside a German concentration camp.  National Action was founded in 2013 but was not banned until it was tied to violent attacks and plots, including the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” became a slogan for the group after being said in court by Thomas Mair, who was glorified in online propaganda calling for murders. In February, a 17-year-old National Action member from Bradford was ordered to undergo intensive counselling after making a pipe-bomb. The boy claimed he had no intention of using the improvised explosive device but told the court he was still a neo-Nazi and supporter of National Action. “Thomas Mair is a HERO,” he had written online. “We need more people like him to butcher the race traitors.”

Mr Collins, who was a member of the National Front as a teenager, said there was evidence suggesting that National Action members are planning terror attacks. “These people are far more dedicated, far more sophisticated and far more dangerous than previous groups,” he added. “They’ve seen the British National Party try and fail mainstream politics, seen the National Front fail and the EDL degenerate into drugs. “They’re younger, they’re smarter, they’re savvier and they model themselves on obscure violent groups.” Mr Collins said members have read up on the IRA’s cell structure and studied the far-left Baader-Meinhof Group, while ironically appearing to repeat techniques recently used by Islamists to evade authorities.

British security services battled for decades to clamp down on a network of Islamists originally known as al-Muhajiroun, eventually succeeding in jailing leader Choudary for inviting support for Isis last year. As members were repeatedly arrested and released, the group mutated and took on a series of names that left authorities powerless to detain them. Each time the government proscribed al-Muhajiroun’s latest incarnation, another would spring up. The current list of banned groups includes 10 different aliases, including Islam4UK, Muslims Against Crusades and The Saved Sect. The ringleader of the London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, was a member of the network, as were the men who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby, attack plotters, suicide bombers and militants who have joined Isis and other terrorist groups around the world.

David Videcette, a former counter-terrorism detective in the Metropolitan Police, said National Action was following a similar path. “The problem is that as soon as the Government proscribes an organisation, they change the name and there’s very little law enforcement can do,” he told The Independent. “You have to go through Parliament to get a new organisation proscribed so it’s not ideal. “I think authorities have got to start going after people individually – they know who they are.” Mr Videcette said police had “failed” with Choudary because they attempted to prosecute him for terror offences that could not be proved, rather than criminal offences that may have resulted in conviction. He added: “These right-wing groups are racial hatred and violence… there are other laws and tactics you can use to arrest them.”

National Action are believed to be attempting to disguise themselves with aliases, including Scottish Dawn and NS131. Mr Collins estimates that up to 60 members are currently active, down from a peak of 150 when a neo-Nazi conference was held in Southport. “They are still very active – they’re still meeting and organising,” he warned. “We cautiously welcomed the proscription of them but we were privately concerned that we didn’t think the police really understood culturally how difficult the group was and how it was evolving. “Some of the attempts to curtail or disrupt the group have been clumsy and ill-informed – police seem to think they’re still dealing with the BNP or National Front.”

Emily Winterbotham, a senior research fellow in national security at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), said National Action was part of a wider resurgence in the far right. She said attacks classed as hate crime, such as vandalism and verbal abuse directed at Muslims, had risen but were not always linked by authorities to extremist groups. “I think sometimes there’s a tendency to downplay some more extreme right-wing activity as hooliganism,” she added. “But 20 per cent of referrals to the Channel counter-extremism programme are related to the far-right. “But the fact that there have now been arrests shows that the security services are looking into people with links to far-right groups in all walks of society.”

Detectives have been granted extra time to question five suspected members of National Action, including four soldiers, who were detained on suspicion of “being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism”. The fifth suspect, a soldier who was serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Cyprus, was formally arrested on Friday after being flown back to the UK from RAF Akrotiri. The 24-year-old from Northampton remains in custody alongside a 22-year-old man from Birmingham, a 32-year-old man arrested in Powys, a 24-year-old arrested in Ipswich and a 24-year-old arrested in Northampton. “The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led,” a spokesperson from West Midlands Police said. “There was no threat to the public’s safety.”
© The Independent


UK: Authorities were warned months ago that neo-Nazi group was trying to infiltrate Armed Forces

The police and the military were warned eight months ago that the banned extremist group National Action was trying to infiltrate the Armed Forces, it has emerged.

6/9/2017- Five men, four of whom are serving soldiers, are currently being held on on suspicion of terrorism offences after a "pre-planned and intelligence-led" by the authorities. But as the questioning of the men continued, it emerged that a leading anti-extremism group has repeatedly highlighted the fact that National Action - which was banned by the Government in December 2016 in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox - was still active. A blog titled "A look behind the scenes in National Action", posted in December 2016 just before the ban on National Action came into force, detailed training and "hate camps" that had been organised by National Action. The Hope not Hate blog pointed out: "A number of National Action supporters/members have decided however to apply to join the British Army." In January the charity then named and photographed a man who they identified as a National Action member who had sucessfully signed up to the Army.

The charity's website also named two members who were applying for the Army in a separate profile and a blog post in April - months after National Action became the first right-wing organisation proscribed by the Home Office. Police forces and the military were sent links to the blogs by concerned members of the public, it is understood. Hope not Hate also detailed how "violence and acting like paramilitaries became more and more important to the group". Matthew Collins, head of research at Hope not Hate, said: "Nothing was done about it. "National Action are far more determined, far more sophisticated, than other groups. They are not just Hitler admirers, they are at the point where they admire all kinds of genocide." Dr Paul Jackson, an expoert in neo-Nazi extremism from the University of Northampton, said that the group had adopted a "paramilitary style".

It comes as experts warn that far-right groups have increasingly attempted to align themselves with the military particularly in the wake of Lee Rigby's murder and the threats against soldier. Dr Jackson said that the EDL had "idealised the army as heroes" and other groups saw themselves as having a "connection" to the armed forces. Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said that he was "very concerned" about news of the arrests but the extremist views are "absolutely nothing to do with the values and ethos of the armed forces". Mr Fallon said that he could not comment on ongoing cases but said that the Armed Forces would root out any right-wing extremists.

He said: "My message is they will be rooted out and thats why that organisation has been proscribed by the Home Secretary, that is why membership of it is a criminal offence. "It doesn't matter whether you are an extremist of the far left or an extremist of the far right, you have got values that have no place in our society. "Indeed we welcome Muslims and people of other faiths into our Armed Forces, we are growing the number of people from those faiths in our Armed Forces because we want our Armed Forces to be able to reflect the diversity that is in our society."

An MOD spokesperson said: “National Action is a proscribed organisation and its ideology is completely at odds with the values and ethos of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces have robust measures in place to ensure those exhibiting extremist views are neither tolerated nor permitted to serve.” West Midlands police yesterday continued to question a 22-year-old from Birmingham, a 32-year-old man from Powys, a 24-year-old from Ipswich and a 24-year-old from Northampton who had been arrested  on Tuesday. A fifth suspect was being flown back from the British Army base in Cyprus where he had been arrested. Three of the men belong to the Royal Anglian Regiment and a fourth is a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
© The Telegraph


UK: Five army men held over alleged membership of banned neo-Nazi group

Personnel suspected of being part of National Action, which was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in December

5/9/2017- Five serving members of the British army have been arrested on suspicion of being members of the recently banned neo-Nazi group National Action. A 22-year-old from Birmingham, a 32-year-old from Powys, a 24-year-old from Ipswich and a 24-year-old from Northampton, all men, have been arrested under the Terrorism Act on suspicion of being members of a proscribed organisation, West Midlands police said. An army source said a fifth serving soldier had been arrested in Cyprus. An army spokeswoman confirmed to the Guardian that serving members were among those arrested. “We can confirm that a number of serving members of the army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far-right group,” she said. “These arrests are the consequence of a police-led operation supported by the army. This is now the subject of a civilian police investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Four are being held at a police station in the West Midlands and a number of properties are being searched in connection with the arrests. The police force said the men had been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Terrorism Act 2000, namely being members of a proscribed organisation, National Action. It is understood that three of the men served with the Royal Anglian regiment. A statement from West Midlands police said: “The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led; there was no threat to the public’s safety.” The arrests were carried out with West Midlands counter-terrorism unit in conjunction with units from Wales and the east Midlands. National Action, an antisemitic, white supremacist group, was banned as a terrorist organisation in December by the home secretary. Amber Rudd said the group had no place in British society. “I am clear that the safety and security of our families, communities and country comes first,” she said. “So today I am taking action to proscribe the neo-Nazi group National Action. This will mean that being a member of, or inviting support for, this organisation will be a criminal offence. “National Action is a racist, antisemitic and homophobic organisation, which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it. It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone.”

The group, which lauded the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox, has held demonstrations in UK cities with banners declaring: “Hitler was right”. The slogan on its former website was: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” which was the only statement given in court by Cox’s murderer, Thomas Mair. The group has been filmed telling a small group of supporters about “the disease of international Jewry” and that “when the time comes they’ll be in the chambers”. It has also been filmed training supporters in hand-to-hand combat. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “It is extremely concerning that there are some members of our armed forces that are allegedly members of the proscribed fascist group National Action. “Their glorification of Nazis and celebration of terrorism are just some examples of this group’s atrocious actions.”
© The Guardian.


Bulgarian Defence Minister wants army to assist in policing public order

5/9/2017- Bulgarian Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov has called for the army to be included in protecting public order jointly with the police. “I put the question, does something have to happen in Bulgaria, for us also to begin to establish this co-operation between the army the police?” Karakachanov said in a September 5 interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television. Karakachanov, a co-leader of the United Patriots, the grouping of ultra-nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government, said that Bulgaria’s presidency of the EU was forthcoming and security measures would be stepped up. Pointing to the case in recent days in which, at the request of the Interior Ministry, he ordered the deployment of military personnel to help catch a murder suspect, Karakachanov said that such cases were a very good example that special forces teams and police should “become acquainted”.

He said that he would propose to the Interior Minister that joint exercises be held so that it would be possible to react if “God forbid, necessary”. “When we have trained professionals in the military, why should these people not be useful to society,” Karakachanov said. In various European capitals, following terrorist attacks, military personnel have been deployed on the streets to carry out armed patrols. Bulgarian law allows the military to be ordered to assist the Interior Ministry. Karakachanov, whose portfolio as deputy prime minister covers security and defence, said that the military was participating in protection of the country’s border, “and I here I take the opportunity to praise the Bulgarian army servicemen who carry out their duties at the border and do not allow the entry into the country of illegal immigrants”. The military also assisted in extinguishing fires and coping with floods, he said.

Karakchanov also called for tightening measures against “Roma crime”, saying that real steps were needed to eliminate the problem of illiteracy among Roma people. This was the only way to integrate minorities, he said. “Illiteracy in this community is enormous. 206 000 children in Bulgaria, most of whom are gypsies, aged seven to 18, are illiterate. “Even if we have to make this education compulsory, I don’t care, if you missed 16 years, you should go back to school and learn,” Karakachanov said. One of the main problems is the study of Bulgarian, he said. “You cannot integrate into society when you do not know how to write and speak Bulgarian. “What rights are you talking about, when you cannot find a job in a normal company or business when you do not have a command of the language of the majority – you cannot write and read,” Karakachanov said. He said that it was high time not to look at these matters “on one side, on a purely ethnic level, and on the other, to stop looking at them as some problem about which someone in Brussels would shout at us”.
© The Sofia Globe


Serbia Protests After Croatian Right-Wingers Burn Newspaper

The Serbian Foreign Ministry sent a protest note to Croatia, complaining of “hatred and intimidation” after a far-right party burned a Serb ethnic minority newspaper in Zagreb at the weekend.

4/9/2017- The Serbian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it has handed a protest note to the charge d’affaires at the Croatian embassy in Belgrade because a far-right party publicly set fire to an issue of Novosti, a weekly newspaper for Croatia’s Serb minority. Members of the far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Right, A-HSP, gathered in front of Novosti’s office in central Zagreb on Saturday, protesting against the possible removal of a Croatian WWII fascist Ustasa slogan - ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home)land)’) - from a plaque in Jasenovac, near the site of a notorious Ustasa concentration camp. The right-wingers warned the leader of Croatia’s Serbs, Milorad Pupovac, who heads the organisation that publishes Novosti, and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic that it would be dangerous for them of the plaque was removed.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry said that the incident, which happened in the presence of police, “represents an example of ethnic hatred and intimidation of members of the Serb national minority… an attempt to revise history as well as praise the Ustasa movement and its symbols”. It called for the perpetrators to be punished according to the law and that, “in the spirit of preserving and further developing bilateral relations” between the two countries, Croatian police should prevent such events from happening in the first place. Plenkovic said on Saturday that he “wouldn’t like to pay special attention to the event”, arguing that the A-HSP is a marginal party “which has held such protests for a number of years”. The A-HSP organised a march in support of US President Donald Trump in Zagreb in February at which a German neo-Nazi party’s flag was flown – an incident that was condemned by the US embassy. The party’s leader Keleminec is known for insisting that ‘Za dom spremni’ is a traditional Croatian greeting – as he told BIRN – although no historical proof of this exists.
© Balkan Insight


Germany: Farrange: 'Once you are able to speak the unspeakable people will begin to think the unthinkable'

The former Ukip leader was personally invited to speak at the Berlin event by Beatrix von Storch, the granddaughter of Hitler's finance minister

8/9/2017- Nigel Farage has received a standing ovation from supporters of the German far-right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party, as he whipped up anti-EU sentiment and urged voters to be “bold” in challenging their country’s status quo. The former Ukip leader injected debate about Brexit into the German election after receiving a personal invitation by the MEP Beatrix von Storch, a leading figure of the anti-immigration party – and the granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister, Lutz von Krosigk. Speaking at the Spandau Citadel in the west of Berlin a fortnight before German voters go to the polls on 24 September, Mr Farage, the MEP for South East England, was greeted with huge applause by the crowd of a few hundred people gathered for the occasion. He urged AfD supporters to take note of the enthusiasm that made Brexit possible and stand up to their country’s establishment.

Founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party, the AfD has seen its popularity grow after it monopolised the anti-refugee sentiment following Ms Merkel’s open-door refugee policy, which has allowed more than a million refugees and migrants to come to Germany in the last two years. Yet the event showed Ms Von Storch was keen to return the debate to the party’s Eurosceptic roots. The AfD is expected to win its first parliamentary seats in the Bundestag (the German parliament) in the upcoming election, and could possibly become the third biggest political force in Germany. “Once you have the opportunity, once you have the space to challenge the establishment, to challenge the status quo, you have the opportunity to make the country think and that is an opportunity but also a responsibility,” Mr Farage told Ms Von Storch and her AfD supporters. “Once you are able to speak the unspeakable, people will begin to think the unthinkable and that is how you beat the establishment.”

Speaking to reporters, Ms Von Storch, hailed Mr Farage as “a role model” and “the man who made the impossible possible” in reference to Brexit the vote. Elected as an MEP in 2014, Ms Von Storch joined the right-wing group Europe for Freedom and Democracy (chaired by Mr Farage) in April last year, after being expelled from the more mainstream European Conservatives and Reformists Group for saying border guards should shoot at women and children trying to cross the border illegally. She later tried to amend her comments saying the use of firearms against children was “rightly, not allowed”. Mr Farage praised Germany as being the “strongest and most powerful” country in the EU, before adding it also had “generous taxpayers” making the biggest contribution to the EU budget.

Capitalising on his audience’s Eurosceptic sentiments, Mr Farage said he was “amazed” Brexit had not been an issue in the German election debate. “It doesn’t matter if you think Brexit is a good thing or a bad thing; it is the biggest challenge the EU has ever faced,” he said. Mr Farage warned far-right voters that if a tariff-free trade deal was not agreed between the EU and the UK, it would be “pretty serious for Germany too”, adding that Germany has sold at least £30bn worth of goods to the UK per year. “Trade is a two way street. If it [Brussels] denies a good deal to the UK, it is denying a deal to the German workers. “It is in our common interest if Brexit is being negotiated successfully.” Mr Farage said the motion behind Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US “is still rolling”, and he urged the German voters to be “bold” in challenging the status quo in their own country.

Mr Farage also slammed conservative candidate Angela Merkel and her centre-left rival Martin Schulz for refusing to discuss Brexit, because it was “a huge embarrassment to the European political dream”.  He described Mr Schulz, leader of the centre-left SPD, as “a fanatic” for his belief in a strong EU, and added Ms Merkel would be more likely to be receptive to the business case for a tariff-free trade deal between the UK and the EU. “With two weeks to go, I would urge Beatrix [von Storch] and others to challenge these people and make of Brexit a debate that matters. You have an opportunity to do well out of this, and you also have an opportunity to do something better and greater for the people of Germany,” he said.

The AfD has been a strong critic of the eurozone and the bailouts which were paid out to Greece. It wants a referendum on leaving the eurozone, and a separate referendum on leaving the European Union unless the bloc returns to the “loose federation” it was when West Germany helped found it in 1957. Outside the citadel, dozens of anti-AfD protesters had gathered to oppose Mr Farage’s visit. Morag Grant, a British citizen originally from Glasgow, was holding a placard saying “British Berliner against Brexit”. The 44-year-old, who has been living in Berlin for 20 years, was unable to vote in last year’s Brexit referendum because she had been an expat in Europe for more than the 15 years threshold.

Ms Grant told The Independent Mr Farage was “simply seeking attention”. “It shows that his whole agenda about a claim to British sovereignty is actually about promoting far-right movements and fascist ideology across Europe. “Farage is very good at hiding his own agenda, but he is coming at the heart of Berlin to fuel divisions.” Jenny Hackney, 40, who left Manchester for Berlin 16 years ago, said Mr Farage aimed to create “a right-wing avalanche across Europe”. The AfD’s popularity has taken a hit in recent months after reaching the mid-teens in opinion polls last year. Yet polls have shown the AfD fluctuating between eight and 11 per cent of voting intentions, and the party is expected to enter the Bundestag for the first time in September, after missing out on reaching the national five per cent threshold in the last election. In a poll on Thursday, pollster Infratest dimap found voting intentions for the AfD reached 11 per cent, with many German voters who had not yet made up their minds.
© The Independent


German far-right leader Weidel files lawsuit against journalist

Dispute is latest in series of feuds between Alternative for Germany leader and media.

8/9/2017- Alice Weidel, a leading election candidate for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), has launched legal action against a journalist, accusing the reporter of spreading false allegations about her health, the party said Friday. The dispute with the journalist from leading news outlet Spiegel is the latest in a series of feuds between Weidel and the media during the campaign for Germany’s parliamentary election, which is just over two weeks away. Weidel is one of the two lead candidates for the AfD, which is poised to become the first far-right party to win seats in the German parliament since World War II with the support of between 8 and 11 percent of voters.

The AfD said the journalist, whom it did not name, had alleged in “research conversations” that Weidel had health problems. It said she had lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Hamburg. “The press witch hunt is becoming more and more absurd. It is not even shying away from covering allegedly intimate health problems. But if false allegations about illness are spread during the research process, that crosses a red line for me,” Weidel said. Spiegel rejected Weidel’s claims. “Alice Weidel’s accusations are absolutely baseless,” spokeswoman Anja zum Hingst said via email. “Spiegel is not planning any story about her health.” Zum Hingst said prosecutors had not notified Spiegel of the criminal complaint announced by the AfD.

Weidel has recently come under fire for walking out of interviews only a few minutes after they started. Last Friday, she left an interview with the Oberhessische Presse newspaper after only two questions had been asked. She objected to the party being described as anti-foreigner and anti-Islam. This week, she walked out of a live debate on Germany’s ZDF television involving seven politicians from all the parties expected to win seats in parliament. In the debate, Andreas Scheuer of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, called one of Weidel’s party colleagues a “right-wing extremist,” prompting her to leave immediately. Later, on Facebook, Weidel accused the TV show’s host Marietta Slomka of being “biased and unprofessional.” Popular German satirist and comedian Jan Böhmermann suggested Weidel’s walkout was a publicity stunt, saying on Twitter that it “appeared to have been staged.” Without stating any reasons, Weidel canceled another interview with the same station scheduled for two days later.
© Politico EU


Anti-left 'kill list' kept by German lawyer and policeman

Evidence of a far-right terror group is growing after the discovery of a "kill list" of left-wing politicians to be murdered if social order collapsed. Is Germany ignoring a right-wing threat from the middle of society?

6/9/2017- The German Justice Ministry has confirmed that investigators found a folder containing the names, addresses and photos of "representatives of the left-wing political spectrum" which had been kept "for criminal purposes" during last week's raids against suspected far-right terrorists in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In an answer to an official information request filed by the socialist Left party, the Justice Ministry said an investigation for "preparation of a serious act of violence against the state" had been opened against two men on August 15. The investigation is understood to be a corollary of the case against Bundeswehr soldier Franco A., who had allegedly been planning to carry out a terrorist attack while posing as a Syrian refugee. At 4 a.m. on August 28, police deployed dogs and stun grenades to raid the homes and offices of the two men, identified as a police officer in the small town of Ludwigslust and a Rostock-based lawyer and local politician - named as Jan Hendrik H. - who are believed to have hoarded weapons and food. Other properties in several towns in the region were also searched, though their owners are not considered suspects, and Jan Hendrik H. has denied that he kept "anything like a death list."

Preparing for social collapse
The lawyer is a former member of the free-market, liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), and a current ally of a small local political group called "Independent Citizens for Rostock," whose leader, Malte Philipp, told Die Welt newspaper that he was shocked at the investigation. He said he had always thought Hendrik H. was "economically liberal and completely free of all extremist positions." Federal prosecutors, who automatically take over any state investigation into possible terrorist activity, said in a statement that the two suspects were part of a network that exchanged messages with other people in various chat groups that mainly discussed the "from their point of view misguided refugee and immigration policy" and other political topics. Prosecutors said the chat group members believed that the policy would drain private and public budgets, cause an increase in terror attacks and other crimes and, eventually, lead to "a collapse of state order." To prepare for this, some of the members collected guns, ammunition and food and appear to have seen the ensuing social disorder as a chance to murder people they deemed leftists.

Middle-class Nazi murderers
Neither the prosecutors or the Justice Ministry revealed who was on the list, how many names it contained or whether those on the list had been warned – nor did the authorities say how many people belonged to the far-right chat groups in question. But Left party Bundestag member Martina Renner – who conferred with local Left party groups in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – said she believes that the list included dozens of people, as well as people who worked for local refugee support groups. She also criticized authorities for not informing individuals on the list of the potential threat. Renner said she believes that the chat groups contained around 30-40 people – and they were not what she called "typical neo-Nazi cells."

"A network that contains police officers, soldiers, lawyers, and local politicians has a different quality to the classic neo-Nazi network," she said. "These people have legal access to weapons, and if they decide to create a far-right terrorist group then they pose a very different danger because security forces don't automatically keep an eye on such people," she added. "The security forces urgently need to re-think their strategy - because this threat is coming from the center of society." The Left party politician also said politicians and security forces have been complicit in consistently diminishing the threat posed by neo-Nazi terrorists. "These people are neither crazy nor harmless," she said. "They turn their words into actions – they don't just talk. We've had right-wing terror in German since the 1950s, and it's always been played down." She added that this and other recent cases, like the botched investigations into the National Socialist Underground, have shown "there has always been a conscious and basic neglect of far-right terrorism in Germany."

For the Left party, this threat also comes in the context of ongoing vandalism that their offices are often subject to in some parts of Germany. "If I'm a Left politician and I call the police because my office got smashed in, then of course I have to trust them. But now we have to be more suspicious," Renner said. "Up to now, they've always said they were isolated cases, but you get a bad feeling."
© The Deutsche Welle*


Germany: Turkey accuses Merkel of racism

4/9/2017- The Turkish government has accused the German chancellor of being "racist" after she called for an end to Turkey's EU accession negotiations. Mainstream parties "are using the same rhetoric as racist parties" in order to win back voters they lost to populist parties, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday (4 September). On Sunday, in a TV debate with her opponent Martin Schulz ahead of the 24 September elections, German chancellor Angela Merkel said that she would speak to other EU leaders to "end" accession talks. "The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU," she said. Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, agreed that "we should not allow in a country that is against EU values." Turkey's Cavusoglu noted that "Turkey and Hungary were discussed more than internal issues" during the debate. "They should rather focus on their own internal issues," he said.

Cavusoglu, who spoke at the Bled Strategic Forum, an event in Slovenia, said EU accession "is still a strategic goal for Turkey". "Turkey has no problem to open any chapter and to discuss and negotiate any technical issue," he added, denouncing "political obstacles" to the process. He said that "nothing has changed in Turkey", despite EU concerns about Turkey's crackdown on opponents of Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan after the failed coup in July 2016. Cavusoglu said "the EU didn't support democracy in Turkey" in its response to the coup and this was why the "support of Turkish people for EU membership has declined". Earlier on Monday, a spokesman for Erdogan said "Germany and Europe's attacks" were "ignoring necessary and pressing problems". "We hope the problematic atmosphere that made Turkish-German relations the victim of this narrow political horizon will end," he added.

'Dialogue continues'
The European Commission reacted cautiously to Merkel's remarks. "Turkey is a candidate country for the moment," the EU high representative Federica Mogherini said, also in Bled, Slovenia. "Dialogue continues, work on negotiations continues," she said. "On the future, I would suggest that we look beyond what is said in electoral campaigns, both in Turkey and in the European Union," she added, saying that the EU must work with Turkey, "a key player in a region that is strategically important for us." "Working together is a must when you are neighbours," she said. In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said EU support for Turkey was "not unlimited and not unconditional", but he added that the EU should "reflect on these things calmly". "This a decision for member states to take," he said. He reminded press that Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was also critical of Turkey last week.

In a speech to EU ambassadors in Brussels Juncker said: "'Turkey is taking giant strides away from Europe" and that Erdogan was making accession "impossible".
© The EUobserver


Abusive chants and Nazi slogans at Germany games - who, what and why?

Germany's victory over the Czech Republic was overshadowed by derogatory chants and Nazi slogans from the stands. What exactly was sung in Prague, by whom and why? DW explains.

3/9/2017- German national team coach Joachim Löw has addressed the unsavory incidents that overshadowed his team’s 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Prague on Friday. Traveling German supporters disrupted a minute’s silence, sang derogatory songs about striker Timo Werner and chanted Nazi slogans in the Eden Arena. After the final whistle, the German players refused to approach their fans, instead disappearing straight down the tunnel. After initially claiming not to have heard the chants in his post-match press conference in Prague on Friday, speaking to reporters in Stuttgart, where Germany play Norway on Monday, Löw explicitly condemned them. "The team sent exactly the right signal by not applauding the fans," he said. "We don't want these hooligans, they are not our fans." The incidents in Prague were linked to a number of social and political issues in German football, including perceived over-commercialization and right-wing extremism.

Anti-DFB chants
Ahead of kick-off, a minute’s silence for two deceased former Czech players was disrupted by German supporters chanting "Scheiß DFB" – a continuation of current nationwide fan protests against the German football association (DFB). This was the first time that such chants had been heard from fans at a national team game, matches that are rarely attended by ultras who often have little interest in international football.

Derogatory chants aimed at Timo Werner
RasenBallsport Leipzig striker Timo Werner has been the subject of abusive chants from some supporters since diving to win a penalty in a Bundesliga match against Schalke last season. But Werner wasn't just any striker falling to ground to win a penalty for any team – he dove for RB Leipzig, the Red Bull-backed franchise club considered by many fans to embody the over-commercialization of the sport. For those fans opposed to Red Bull, Werner has become something of a target figure.

Nazi chants
While the chants aimed at the DFB and Werner are rooted in ongoing protests and current sentiment, other chants have caused outrage for a different reason. The German national team’s traveling support has long contained a small number of right-wing football hooligans and neo-Nazis. Although generally banned from attending domestic matches, they like to use the bigger stage offered by the national team as a platform to air their views. At the World Cup in France in 1998, French police officer Daniel Nivel was beaten into a coma by German hooligans in Lens. Last summer, a group of right-wing German hooligans traveled to the European championship in France where they attacked Ukrainian fans in Lille and posed with a Reichskriegsflagge – the flag of the Imperial German armed forces until 1921.

On Friday night in Prague, as the final whistle approached, the traditional chants of "Sieg!" (victory) from the German supporters were accompanied by an echoed "heil!" from around 200 neo-Nazis. Given the geography, Germany’s away matches in eastern Europe are particularly problematic due to the proximity to eastern Germany - where right-wing political parties such as the AfD enjoy significant support and right-wing extremism is more pronounced. "You know what’s not far from Prague, so you can do the math yourself," Werner said after the match, referring to Saxon cities such as Dresden, Chemnitz and Zwickau which are only 100 kilometers (60 miles) away from the Czech capital. According to Focus, Bild and Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, the hooligans did indeed belong to groups associated with second-division side Dynamo Dresden and third-division FSV Zwickau.

How did they get tickets?
The 200 hooligans didn’t acquire tickets in the away end and weren't among the 1,200 fans officially ticketed by the DFB. But since the match wasn't sold out, they were able to purchase tickets in the neighboring blocks at the stadium ticket office. Czech media also report that 30-40 hooligans violently forced their way into the stadium.

What now?
Both the German national team and Stuttgarter Zeitung have appealed for supporters to refrain from singing derogatory chants in Stuttgart when Germany take on Norway on Monday night and it appears extremely unlikely that the neo-Nazi clientele from Friday night will re-appear, given the almost sold-out stadium and more thorough ticket checks. However, local supporters in Stuttgart are just as critical of the DFB as those in other cities and they are unlikely to have prepared a warm welcome for former Stuttgart player Werner. Those chants are likely to continue, regardless of what Joachim Löw thinks.
© The Deutsche Welle*


Hungary: EU court migrant ruling comes gift-wrapped for Orban re-election bid

A rap on the knuckles from the EU’s top court will not end Hungary’s opposition to accommodating asylum seekers, and may even help Prime Minister Viktor Orban in his campaign for re-election next year.

6/9/201- Rightwinger Orban has been one of the bloc’s most vocal opponents of attempts by Brussels to force member states to take in quotas of mainly Syrian refugees, and the fence that Hungary built on its southern border to keep them out has been criticised by other governments and rights groups. But that unapologetic stance has gone down well with voters at home and, with Orban’s Fidesz party already firmly ahead in opinion polls, initial responses from Budapest to Wednesday’s ruling suggested the legal setback would help keep the issue of migration high on the domestic political agenda. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the European Court of Justice’s dismissal of appeals by Hungary and Slovakia against the migrant quota system the European Union launched in 2015 was “entirely unacceptable”. “The real battle only starts today,” he told a news conference. “I want to assure all citizens ... that the Hungarian government will do everything it can to protect Hungary and the Hungarian people.”

Hungary argues that the obligatory relocation of asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy from the Middle East would undermine its sovereignty and social fabric, and Orban’s government held a referendum in 2016 on whether to accept any future EU-wide migrant relocation quotas. More than 3 million Hungarians, an overwhelming majority of participants, rejected the EU initiative then - and Orban would win a third term in office next April with their support alone. “Orban could use a rejection of Hungary’s claim (by the court) to fuel his electoral campaign with anti-EU-arguments,” said Professor Hendrik Hansen, an expert on international and European politics at Budapest’s Andrassy University. “The migration issue is a winning point for the Orban government independently of what the European court decides,” added Tibor Attila Nagy, of the Centre for Fair Political Analysis said ahead of the court ruling.

Memories of Crisis
The square in front of Budapest’s Eastern Railway station was a focus of the world’s media when thousands of migrants camped there in September 2015, hoping to scramble on to trains bound for Austria and Germany. On a bright late summer morning two years later its flagstones are eerily quiet, but locals hurrying to work have not forgotten the days when Hungary was the main transit route for hundreds of thousands of refugees from war and poverty en route to richer western states. Many remain opposed to the country taking in migrants. “The fence is very good (to have) as it protects us from the explosions and violence and everything,” catering worker Ilona Nagy, 55, told Reuters. “I would vote for Fidesz, only Fidesz.” “It was only Hungary which did what it had to do and protected the Schengen borders, and this is still the case,” said pensioner Peter Lazar, 73, another Fidesz supporter.

But some preferred to focus on other matters. “I believe the whole migration crisis is government propaganda nothing more,” said Karoly Szenasi, 50. Monika Fenyvesi, 33, out walking with her child in a stroller, said the scenes at the station had been “scary” and it was good that Hungary had imposed controls. But issues such as support for families, healthcare, taxation, and wages would determine which party got her vote. “It will be hard to decide but it will not be the current government.”
© Reuters


Hungary rages at EU asylum verdict

The Hungarian government's reaction to the European Court verdict was fast and furious. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto complained bitterly of politics being behind the "rape of European law and values".

6/9/2017- The migration question is very emotive in Hungary, and has been skilfully used by the ruling Fidesz party to attract voters, ahead of next year's parliamentary election. The opposition Socialist Party accused the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, of having "gambled and lost" by suing the European Commission. Anticipating the verdict, the government has in the past days appealed to the European Commission to pay half the €880m (£800m; $1.05bn) costs of the Hungarian fence on its southern border. Mr Szijjarto told reporters that this was his government's understanding of "solidarity". The Commission rejected the request, on the grounds that it does not pay for border fences and had not contributed to the Bulgarian or Greek fences, though it had provided funds for surveillance equipment. The ball is now in the European Commission's court, the Hungarian government believes.

'Illegal' migrants?
The foreign minister told reporters that the verdict did not compel Hungary to accept the 1,294 "illegal migrants" it was asked to take. The Commission will doubtless challenge that interpretation. Hungary is now bracing itself for the Commission to turn to the European Court of Justice to ask it to punish those who refuse mandatory quotas. In the longer term, the Hungarian government fears that EU members will impose a "permanent" requirement on member states to accept quotas. Wednesday's verdict only concerned the temporary emergency, from September 2015 to September 2017. The court in its verdict, and the Commission in its statements, have underlined that the Hungarian government mislabelled those involved from the start. The 160,000 asylum seekers referred to in the original decision, later reduced to 100,000, were deemed "highly likely" to receive asylum, meaning they had at least a 75% chance of getting asylum in the EU, based on the countries they came from - namely Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. Last year Germany accepted 91% of Syrian asylum seekers, while Hungary accepted only 9%. Any EU country that accepts relocations from Italy and Greece also has the chance to screen them, and can reject them and deport them later if it finds security reasons to do so. The Hungarian government often cites the terror threat to justify its tough stance on migration.

Hungary's record of asylum
At the Transit Zone at Roszke, one of two container camps set up by the Hungarian government on its border with Serbia, some 300 asylum seekers sweltered in the late summer heat on Wednesday. They are divided into five sectors within the heavily guarded, razor-wire rimmed camp. There is no shade, and no air-conditioning for inmates. No-one can be seen from outside the perimeter fence, though the voices of children sometimes drift on the wind. As I watched, a ball flew up above the wire, then was gone. According to the latest statistics of the Hungarian Immigration Office, 444 asylum seekers were granted protection so far this year - a 60% increase on the same period last year. Human rights groups in Hungary explain the increase in terms of those allowed into the container camps in the first place - mainly women, children, and the most vulnerable. Single men who have reached Serbia through the Balkans stand little chance of even having their asylum requests considered in Hungary, and can only reach Western Europe with the help of smugglers.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
© BBC News.


EU rejects Hungary's demand to finance border fence

2/9/2017- The European Commission rejected Hungarian demands to co-finance its fences along the country's shared borders with Serbia and Croatia.  "We are not financing the construction of fences or barriers at the external borders," EU commission spokesperson, Alexander Winterstein, told reporters in Brussels on Friday (1 September).  Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, in a letter addressed to EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, requested the money as a gesture of solidarity given the some €800 million Budapest has spent on the fences. Hungary now wants the EU to pay half. But Winterstein also took issue with Orban's notion of solidarity, noting Hungary's refusal to take in asylum seekers from Greece and Italy. "Solidarity is a two-way street, and all member states should be ready to contribute. This is not some sort of a la carte menu where you pick one dish," he said.

Orban, in his letter, said Hungary deserved the money for having protected not only itself "but all of Europe against the flood of illegal migrants", noting both Italy and Greece had received large sums from the EU commission to manage migration. The EU has earmarked over €93 million in funding for Hungary, both from the EU's Asylum, Migration and Integration fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security fund (ISF). It also awarded Hungary an additional €6 million in emergency funds. In 2015, Hungary had also refused to be labelled a front-line state in the migration route and rejected outright becoming a beneficiary country, like Greece and Italy, in the EU's relocation scheme. That plan had initially intended to remove asylum seekers from Hungary and relocate them to other EU states. Instead, Hungary announced it would erect a 175km fence along the Serbian border, which it completed last year, and then added another one with Croatia. Budapest also started a second Serbian border fence and has since trained and put some 3,000 border-hunters into service.

Orban's government is now awaiting a verdict from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, following a dispute over the EU's relocation scheme. That verdict is likely to disappoint the Hungarians after the court's advocate general over the summer pushed to drop the case altogether. Other border fences stand between Austria and Slovenia, Slovenia and Croatia, Macedonia and Greece, Greece and Turkey, and Bulgaria and Turkey.

EU money for virtual fences only
But while the EU commission won't finance the construction of border fences, it will pour money into surveillance and other border management equipment along the barriers. "We do support border management at the external borders - this can be surveillance measures, this can be border equipment," noted Winterstein. According to a Statewatch report, out earlier this week, the EU budget from 2007 until 2010 helped fund some 545 surveillance systems covering over 8,200 km of the EU's external borders. This includes over 22,300 border surveillance equipment items. At one point, the EU commission even granted €13 million in research funding to create autonomous unmanned land patrol robots, which were designed to track and chase down people crossing borders. Another report from the London-based Overseas Development Institute, a think tank, estimates that the EU has spent some €17 billion since 2014 on deterring refugees and migrants from arriving.
© The EUobserver


Mosque in the Netherlands targeted by far-right attack

2/9/2017- An under-construction mosque in southeastern Netherlands was targeted by a group of far-right extremists, head of the mosque said Saturday. The far-right 'Identitair Verzet' movement hanged anti-Islam banners at the roof of Tevhid mosque which is under construction in Venlo city. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ahmet Dursun, head of Tevhid Mosque, condemned the incident and said there were many far-right extremists in their neighborhood, but they were not expecting such an attack. "We've held talks with the mayor and some other officials. They are supporting us," he said, adding: "We will take necessary measures not to experience such incidents again." The group, which claimed the responsibility for the incident, draped banners reading "Stay away. The Netherlands belongs to us. We don't want a mosque and Muslims in our neighborhood" both in Turkish and Dutch. They also shared the photos of banners on social media, and claimed they "occupied" the mosque. In the past two months, PEGIDA, another far-right anti-Muslim movement, carried out a stunt at under-construction Selimiye Mosque in Veghel and an Islamic primary school in Leiden.
© The Daily Sabah


France: Expert: Rise of far-right, far-left parties shows "uneasiness" in society

2/9/2017- The rise of both the far-right populist party National Front (FN) and the far-left France Insoumise (FI) reflects the "uneasiness" of French society that French President Emmanuel Macron has failed to address, said a senior expert of French politics. In a recent interview with Xinhua, Luc Rouban, a researcher with the Center of Political Research of Science Po (CEVIPOF) said there was now a "re-enactment" of the left-right division in French society. Rouban recalled that in the first round of the presidential elections earlier this year, "half of the electorate voted either for FN candidate Marine Le Pen or for FI candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, or for other small candidates with populist orientations."

Le Pen lost to Macron, who campaigned as a centrist candidate, in the final round by a large margin. Although this was hailed by many as an historic defeat of populism, the opposition to the 39-year-old president is now in the process of mobilizing, according to Rouban. "The left-right division is also being reactivated. They have not disappeared...especially on issues related to society, public services, schools, etc., we observe opposition strong enough, while at the same time, Macron has begun to show his limits," the expert explained. The dual liberal position of Macron, both economic and social, does not fit in "the matrix of the Hexagon," he commented. "In France, the real social liberals represent six percent of the public opinion. The social and ideological base of the president remains very weak and his scheme for society lacks readability, which is indicated by the drop in his popularity," said Rouban.

Meanwhile, the populist parties have become the spokespeople of popular discontent, which forms the basis of the opposition, he added. Asked about the future of the FN, the researcher said the party was an extremely powerful opposition pole, whose electoral base had made significant progress in the past three presidential elections. "It is true that Le Pen was criticized within the party after her defeat, but we must not forget that she had 10 million votes," he said. "The FN is not going to disappear, just as its sovereignist and anti-European logic is not going to disappear, " he said. Regarding the FI, Rouban said they have too few seats to have any influence in the National Assembly, but Melenchon is hoping to gain more public support against the backdrop of the controversial labor law reforms proposed by Macron.

The FI leader, who repeatedly vowed to embody strong opposition to Macron, announced the plan to organize a protest on Sept. 23, after the French government unveiled details of the reform scheme on Thursday. Regardless of the anchoring effect, the researcher believes that the parties "have very little chance of gaining power." "They crystallize dissatisfaction but in the end, it is the principle of economic rationality that takes precedence in the ballot box," he concluded.
© The Global Times


RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to