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The EU's foreign ministers grappled in Brussels Monday with how to treat the Palestinian Authority following last Wednesday's landslide Hamas victory.
That there is even a question of whether to continue funding the PA if Hamas is part of the government shows that Europe has taken a much more forgiving position toward violent and terrorist organizations that form parties here than they do on their own continent.
Indeed, the participation of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections ran against the grain of the law - and numerous precedents - governing parties that advocate violence and government overthrow in a number of European countries.
The following is a partial list:
French law allows for the dismantling of parties, or forbidding their activities, on the basis of racist propaganda. The law also enables the dismantling of organizations that work toward inciting armed demonstration in the street, resemble militias, or "whose aim is to undermine the integrity of national territory or use force to attack republican government."
In August 2002, the French government dismantled the extreme-right group Unite Radicale after one of its members tried to assassinate French President Jacques Chirac. In addition, the government outlawed two militant Kurdish organizations in 1993, and outlawed the neo-Fascist group Le Nouvel Ordre in 1982.
The German constitution includes a clause that outlaws party activity that represents a threat to the constitutional, democratic government in Germany. The neo-Nazi party Sozialistische Reichspartei was outlawed in 1953 after it was deemed to endanger the country's democratic government. In 1956 the communist party, the KDP, was outlawed, since its goal was to bring about a communist government in Germany.
In Spain it is possible to forbid party activities, or to dismantle them on the basis of their being criminal organizations, especially if the organization is armed or a terrorist group.
In 2002 Spain enacted a law making it possible for a party to be banned if it supported a radical change in the state's political structure, or if it directly or indirectly supported terrorism. In August 2002 a Spanish judge banned the Batasuna Party for three years because of its connection with the Basque ETA. After this decision, the Spanish parliament met and decided to ban the party indefinitely. In addition to keeping the party from participating in the elections, this also effectively kept 900 elected municipal officials throughout Spain from being able to run again.
Batasuna was banned because it never condemned ETA terrorist attacks, not because of conclusive proof that it was involved directly in Basque terrorism. In addition, the party was forbidden to convene demonstrations or political rallies.
The Italian constitution forbids a political party from using means that are not democratic. At the same time, the law does not expressly forbid a party from having as its final goal something that runs contrary to the constitution or the principles of democracy.
However, the constitution does forbid a reorganization of a fascist party or a party similar to it. This law was enacted in 1974 to outlaw the fascist Ordine Nuovo Party.
In Austria there is no law enabling the dismantling of a party, although there is a ban on Nazi parties. When the far-right Freedom Party of Joerg Haider joined the Austrian government in 2000, the EU clamped unofficial diplomatic sanctions on Austria, and even discussed kicking it out of the EU. The sanctions against Austria were eventually relaxed and extended only to Haider and his party.
Dutch law forbids incitement to hatred, xenophobia and racial discrimination. According to the Dutch civil code, "Organizations that aim to promote violence or the support of violence, either in the Netherlands or a foreign country, cannot be public-benefit organizations, and in fact, are forbidden under Dutch law." The Nationale Volkspartij was outlawed for inciting hatred and xenophobia in 1998.
The Turkish constitution anchors into law the principle of Turkey as a democratic state that separates church and state and is run by the rule of law.
A number of parties have been banned on the basis of this constitution. In 1998 the Welfare Party was banned because of the claim that it ran contrary to the principle of keeping Turkey a secular state. Turkey claimed that the party backed jihad.
Council of Europe:
The Council of Europe adopted a resolution in 1999 that reads: "Prohibition or enforced dissolution of political parties may only be justified in the case of parties that advocate the use of violence as a political means to overthrow the democratic constitutional order, thereby undermining the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution."