Antonis Samaras 311.
(photo credit: Greek Press Office)
ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his conservative New
Democracy party have dropped their opposition to a new anti-racism bill that
outlaws Holocaust denial.
The about-face on Thursday apparently was in
response to widespread condemnation over the party’s stance from the European
Union, as well as to Greek and international Jewish groups that had urged Athens
to take stronger steps against the ultranationalist, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn
New Democracy had refused to back the bill sponsored by two
smaller parties in the ruling coalition, saying that existing legislation was
sufficient to deal with racist attacks that have been spawned by Golden
The proposal would add stricter jail time and fines for inciting
and carrying out racist attacks and, for the first time, makes “approving or
belittling the seriousness of Nazi crimes, the Jewish Holocaust, and other
genocides” a crime under Greek law.
Politicians or political parties with
members convicted under the law would not be eligible for state funding,
according to the bill.
However, state bodies and the Greek Orthodox
Church would be exempt.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece
has called on “all democratic forces in the country to overcome their
differences and pass legislation that will display zero tolerance to racist
violence, xenophobia, anti- Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
had its own version of the bill, which attempts to strengthen existing laws and
“unites democratic society and does not contain constitutional problems,” the
party said in a statement.
Golden Dawn emerged on the political scene
last year, winning 7 percent of the vote, or 18 seats, in the 300- member Greek
Recent polls have indicated the party, which runs on a fierce
anti-immigrant platform, now has about 10 percent of the Greek population’s