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EU rights agency decries ‘mainstreaming’ of extremism in Hungary, Greece
By SAM SOKOL
23/12/2013
Greece's Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik have both been termed neo-Nazi parties by the World Jewish Congress.
 
The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency issued a series of recommendations last week aimed at stemming the “mainstreaming of elements of extremist ideology in political and public discourse” throughout the continent, particularly in Greece and Hungary.

The group specifically voiced concern over the “substantial parliamentary representation of parties that use paramilitary tactics or are closely associated with paramilitary groups and use extremist rhetoric to target irregular migrants in Greece, and the Roma and Jews in Hungary.”

The human rights watchdog cited several “barriers” to countering the rise in xenophobia, including, in the case of Greece, problematic record-keeping in the case of hate crimes and “no evidence” of a systematic effort to deal with racism. In Hungary, a strict interpretation of what constitutes incitement to hatred has set a high legal bar for prosecution, which has hindered efforts to curb extremism.

Record-keeping in Hungary is also problematic, the agency alleged. However, the FRA continued, both countries have made significant efforts to rectify these shortcomings.

“All public officials, representatives of human rights bodies and civil society organizations with whom FRA met expressed a strong interest and willingness to engage in multi–agency partnerships and outlined some concrete obstacles and barriers that should be resolved,” the group said in regard to Greece. Moreover, recent legal and police efforts aimed at shutting down the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party elicited praise for Athens from the continental group, including Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s promise to “deracinate” the party.

Such partnerships, the FRA believes, are key in combating racism and xenophobia.

The rights group expressed concern, however, that the assumption by the government that lowering the numbers of illegal migrants in Greece would lead to a decrease in violence could have negative repercussions.

“Such assumptions, which ignore how deeply held beliefs and attitudes can shape behavior, can negatively impact on the effectiveness of responses to racism, xenophobia and related intolerance,” the group asserted.

Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik have both been termed neo-Nazi parties by the World Jewish Congress, which earlier this year called for a ban on all such parties in the European Union. The Jobbik party’s paramilitary arm, the New Hungarian Guard, has reminded some local Jews of the Nazi SA “brownshirts.” Peter Feldmajer, a former head of the local community, told The Jerusalem Post earlier this year that many Holocaust survivors now “hear the same voices that they did in the past.” However, he said, the younger generation stands ready to “fight back.”

Both parties emerged as important political forces in their respective countries despite their previous statuses as longtime fringe movements.

The FRA came under fire from Israel recently after removing a draft definition of anti-Semitism from its website.

“We don’t have a mandate to develop [and] impose, in any way, definitions,” an FRA official told the Post following complaints from Israeli Foreign Ministry officials. “We cannot provide a measure based on which people will assess how one Jewish organization records incidents in one country versus a Jewish organization in another country versus a police authority in a third country versus a civil society organization in a fourth country.”

Reuters contributed to this report.
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