NEWS - Archive September 2017

Headlines 29 September, 2017

Headlines 22 September, 2017

Headlines 15 September, 2017

Headlines 8 September, 2017

Headlines 29 September, 2017

Azerbaijan Detains Dozens of Gay and Transgender People

29/9/2017- More than 50 gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, were detained and abused in a series of raids over the past week, lawyers and rights activists said. The Azerbaijani government said the raids were prompted by multiple complaints from local residents, who had urged the police to crack down on the illegal sex trade in central Baku, a city of more than two million. However, lawyers and activists said that most of those detained were not engaged in prostitution and that the accusations were used as a pretext for persecution. Samed Rahimli, a lawyer assisting the victims, said the police had “targeted homosexuals in general, not prostitutes as they have claimed.” “The detained were subjected to inhuman treatment and torture,” he said. “Their heads were shaved, some were electroshocked.”

Lawyers and activists said that sexual minorities have been harassed in the past, but that the latest raids were without recent precedent. Speaking to the local APA news agency on Tuesday, Ekhsan Zakhidov, a spokesman for the Azeri Interior Ministry, said the raids were “justified.” “People, infected with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases pose a threat to lives and health of young people, who get in contact with them,” said Mr. Zakhidov, claiming that 16 of those arrested had AIDS or syphilis. This claim could not be independently confirmed. The crackdown elicited comparisons to tactics seen in the Chechnya region of Russia, where dozens of gay men were detained, and in some cases tortured and some killed, in a crackdown in April. In Azerbaijan, Mr. Rahimli, the lawyer, and other advocates said their clients were afraid to be named publicly, to file complaints against the police or to discuss their experiences, in some cases because their families did not know about their sexuality.

The Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, published an account online by one man, identified only as Hasan. “They were beating me,” the statement said. “The police told me that I am doing prostitution and must give them information about clients.” In the statement, Hasan said he was not a prostitute. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Azerbaijan, a mostly Muslim former Soviet republic in Central Asia, in 2000, but discrimination and even violence remain problems. Many of those arrested were sentenced to up to 30 days in jail, after being charged with disobeying police orders, said Javid Nabiyev, a local activist who is helping lawyers appeal the sentences.

Many were detained at home or at work, exposing their sexual orientation to their families and colleagues, said Mr. Rahimli, one of the lawyers. An activist and staff member of Minority, a magazine in Azerbaijan that covers gay and transgender issues, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the government, said many victims had been forced by the police to provide names of their friends and colleagues. Some victims were detained after being lured to meet in the city by the police, who were posing online as gay or transgender people looking for dates, the activist added. Many of those affected lived in rented apartments, which their landlords told them to vacate after the raids, the activist said. Some fled for Turkey or went to hide in other regions of Azerbaijan.
© The New York Times

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What Is Stormfront? Neo-Nazi Website Holds Conference During Jewish High Holiday

29/9/2017- The largest white supremacist forum on the internet was shut down in August, but its fans aren't calling it quits just yet: Former members of the defunct neo-Nazi website Stormfront are having a conference on Saturday in Tennessee, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel. It will be held in an undisclosed location in the Great Smokey Mountains during the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur. Until it was shut down in August, Stormfront was the oldest white supremacist website and one of the largest neo-Nazi forums on the internet. According to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, registered members of the Stormfront forums were allegedly responsible for nearly 100 murders between 2009 and 2014.

To be clear, this isn't an example of the word "neo-Nazi" being casually used to refer to a generic far-right movement. Stormfront's founder, Don Black, is a was a member of the American Nazi Party, and he, along with the thousands of posters on the Stormfront forums, regularly expressed racist beliefs against non-whites. Discussion threads with titles like "What do you want done with the Jews?," "The Islamic Disease," "Blacks fail again without whites," and "Crypto Jew tells Catholics to pray with Muslims" populated the discussion boards when Stormfront was active. The website published the works of Adolf Hitler and other literal Nazis, and featured racial slurs, swastikas, and other Nazi imagery for most of its existence. Wary of the hazards of openly associating with the Germany Nazi Party, however, Black banned swastikas, as well as use of the N-word, from the site in 2008.

Black himself was active in white supremacist politics long before founding Stormfront. He was a member of the National Socialist White People's Party, formerly the American Nazi Party, in the early 1970s, and joined the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1975, just one year after Holocaust denier David Duke founded the offshoot group. Black and several fellow neo-Nazis were imprisoned in 1981 for participating in "Operation Red Dog," an attempt — and this isn't a joke — to overthrow the government of Dominica, an island in the Caribbean. While in prison, he learned computer coding and went on to found Stormfront as a dial-up bulletin board in 1990. At its peak, Stormfront had 300,000 registered users, although to be sure, only a small slice of them were active. However, all of that came to an end in in late August, when the site was yanked offline by its host after the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a complaint that it was promoting hate speech.

Black said on his radio show that the host, Network Solutions, would be keeping the Stormfront.org domain, thus preventing him from reviving it on a different server. "They decided that Stormfront was politically incorrect and therefore they could close it down," Black said at the time. Nevertheless, the community of white supremacists that Stormfront created hasn't disappeared. The (former) website's Tennessee conference was announced back in July, with one of the organizers promising in a blog post that "no Jews, race mixers, or homosexuals will be present at this event."

Speakers will include self-identified "biological racist" Billy Roper, who once said that "anyone who is willing to drive a plane into a building to kill jews [sic] is alright [sic] by me," as well as Matthew Heimbach, who was featured in the VICE documentary about the Charlottesville protests and said in 2013 that supporters of interracial marriage "should be sent to re-education centers." The former Stormfront members are holding their conference throughout the weekend of Sept. 29 during Yom Kippur, a Jewish high holiday. Its location isn't being disclosed by organizers.
© Bustle

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Swedish court remands man over mosque blaze

29/9/2017- A 20-year-old man was remanded in custody on Friday over an arson attack which gutted a Swedish mosque earlier this week. According to Swedish state television SVT, the suspect -- reportedly of El Salvadoran-origin -- was accused of "arson and hate crime". The mosque in the southern Swedish city of Orebro was completely destroyed on Tuesday. No one was injured in the blaze, Orebro fire chief Ulf Jacobsen said, adding that evidence pointed to it being an arson attack. Swedish firefighters arrived at the site at 2 a.m. local time (0000GMT) but the mosque was completely gutted, according to Jacobsen. The Orebro mosque -- which had capacity for 250 people -- was built in 2007 in the Vivalla neighborhood, home to Muslims from various countries. The incident came after another suspected arson attack last May partially destroyed a Shia mosque in the Stockholm suburb of Jakobsberg. An investigation by the Islamic Cooperation Council in Sweden revealed in 2015 that seven out of 10 mosques in the country had been attacked.
© World Bulletin

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Sweden: US Embassy warns citizens about neo-Nazi demonstration in Gothenburg

The US Embassy in Sweden has issued a warning to its citizens ahead of a planned neo-Nazi march in Gothenburg on Saturday, warning that the event could turn violent.

29/9/2017- The demonstration has been organized by the Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) in Sweden's second largest city on Saturday afternoon. Several counter demonstrations are also planned. The US Embassy advised American citizens to avoid the area where the march was scheduled to take place, saying: "Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence." It noted that previous demonstrations involving the NRM had turned violent, and urged Americans to "exercise caution" if they found themselves nearby any "large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations" in the city centre. Extra police have been sent to the city ahead of the march, including uniformed officers and others in civilian clothing. The city centre is expected to be particularly busy on Saturday due to several other events taking place, including the annual Book Fair and a football match, and its timing as the first Saturday after pay day.

The march also coincides with the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur – a day of atonement observed by fasting and praying – and the route was initially planned to pass close to a Gothenburg synagogue. However, earlier this week a local court changed the route, cutting its total length by almost half, citing risks to public order and security. Marchers will no longer be allowed to pass by the synagogue or to gather outside the location of the Book Fair. The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and its growing popularity in Sweden has caused concern in neighbouring Norway. Earlier in the month, about 50 members of extremist group marched through the centre of Gothenburg, an event for which the group did not have a permit. According to media reports, a minor fight broke out between some of the protesters and a counter-demonstrator, but police quickly intervened and did not make any arrests.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Extra police called to Gothenburg to manage neo-Nazi demonstration

Police from across Sweden will be called to Gothenburg to help manage a planned neo-Nazi demonstration in the centre of the city.

27/9/2017- On September 30th the Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) will hold a demonstration in Sweden's second city, following a previous march there earlier in the month. Gothenburg's Administrative Court has significantly shortened the original route, preventing it from passing near a synagogue where celebrations of the holy Jewish holiday Yom Kippur will be taking place, as well as the city's biggest exhibition centre, where the Gothenburg Book Fair will be held. Members of the NMR have previously suggested they will ignore the route change however, while the organization has also appealed the court’s ruling. The march is being treated by police as a "special event", and reinforcements will be brought to Gothenburg in an effort to police it. Counter-demonstrations are also expected to take place. "There will be a lot of police in Gothenburg on Saturday, both uniformed and in civilian clothing," police west district chief Klas Friberg said at a press conference detailing their operation.

Officers will wear body cameras and resources have been provided from other police regions as well as the Swedish Police National Operations Department (NOA), he noted. Police were criticized for not intervening when NMR held a march in Gothenburg earlier in September despite not having a permit. Gothenburg police chief Erik Nord defended the move however, arguing Sweden's freedom of speech laws protect protests without permits. The city is expected to be busy due to a combination of it being the first Saturday after pay day and several events taking place in the centre, including the annual Book Fair and a Gais football match at Gamla Ullevi, police operation leader Magnus Larsson said. The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and its growing popularity in Sweden has caused concern in neighbouring Norway.
© The Local - Sweden

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Swedish mosque gutted in suspected arson attack

26/9/2017- A mosque in the southern Swedish city of Orebro has been completely destroyed in a suspected arson attack, a fire department official said on Tuesday. One person has been arrested.There are no reports of injuries. Firefighters arrived at the site at 2 a.m. local time (0000GMT) but the mosque was completely gutted, according to Orebro fire chief Ulf Jacobsen. No one was injured in the blaze, Jacobsen said, adding that evidence pointed to it being an arson attack. At a press conference just before lunchtime on Tuesday police confirmed that one person had been arrested suspected of arson, and noted they “see no political or religious motive for the crime”. Örebro Mosque moved to the building, which was previously used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, in 2007. It welcomes more than 5,000 visitors a month of around 25 different nationalities, according to its website.

The Orebro mosque — which has a capacity for 250 people — was built in 2007 in the Vivalla neighborhood, home to Muslims from various countries. The Sunni mosque was attacked in 2014, when someone threw a bottle with flammable contents through a window. However, a fire did not break out as a result. The incident came after another suspected arson attack last May partially destroyed a Shia mosque in the Stockholm suburb of Jakobsberg. An investigation by the Islamic Cooperation Council in Sweden revealed in 2015 that seven out of 10 mosques in the country had been attacked. Sweden is a strong draw for many migrants and about 15 percent of its population was born abroad. An estimated 100,000 Turks live in the Nordic country.
© The Muslim News

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Norway: Local politician hits out at police over Nazi march

City council representative Trond Blattmann has called police management of a demonstration by neo-Nazis in the town of Kristiansand of Juy 29th this year “useless”.

28/9/2017- Leadership of the local Agder Police District attended a meeting of local leaders in the town earlier this week to explain why they did not intervene during the march, reports the Fædrelandsvennen newspaper. Local politician Blattmann, whose son was killed during the July 22nd, 2011 terrorist attacks by white supremacist Anders Breivik on the island of Utøya, unleashed a furious diatribe at the police representative, according to minutes recorded by Fædrelandsvennen. “I am livid with you. You are offering legal terminology and excuses for what you did. I think it is shameful,” Blattmann said according to the report. Police explained at the meeting that they did not have authority to intervene during the demonstration, in which 70 supporters of the extreme right Nordic Resistance Movement marched through Kristiansand’s main thoroughfare.

Police said that 50 of the demonstrators were from Sweden, 17 from Finland, and three from Norway. “This was a demonstration of aggression, not free expression, and was exclusively intended to create fear in society. You refused to stop it. We will damn well not accept it anymore,” Blattmann, who represents the Labour Party, said. Deputy Chief of Police Arne Sundvoll with Agder Police District said that he sympathised with Blattmann’s strong reaction. “This is not something I or anybody else wishes to see repeated in the streets of Kristiansand. We made an assessment, and take the position that we must protect freedom of speech,” Sundvoll told Fædrelandsvennen.
© The Local - Norway

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Greek neo-Nazi lawmaker is convicted for hate speech

Ilias Kasidiaris of the Golden Dawn party given suspended sentence of 6 months for inciting violence against immigrants

28/9/2017- A court in Athens has sentenced a far-right lawmaker to six months in prison for using hate speech against immigrants and inciting supporters to violence. The court Thursday convicted Ilias Kasidiaris, spokesman for the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, following a speech posted online in 2011 by supporters. In it, he refers to immigrants as “human garbage” and called on residents in a low-income area near Athens to take direct action against foreign criminals. The sentence was suspended for three years. The 36-year-old politician said he was “standing up for Greeks … neglected by the state” and described the conviction as part of a politically orchestrated attack on his party. Golden Dawn, founded as a neo-Nazi party in early 1980s, came third in Greece’s last general election. In 2012 Kasidiaris read out in parliament a passage from the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 2014 he was convicted and jailed on illegal firearms charges.
© The Associated Press

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Hungary: Referendum proposed on autonomous Roma province

28/9/2017- In 2011, István Kamarás–formerly employed by the Christian Democratic People’s Party’s (KDNP) Barankovics Foundation–claimed refugee status in Canada, noting that he no longer wanted to “lend his name to the government’s actions that oppress Gypsies.” He added that he is “forced to emigrate from the country” and is “forced to accept in his heart the centuries-long hopelessness of the Gypsy people.” Since then, Mr. Kamarás and his family returned to Hungary and he established a new political party with a considerable following on social media. But what really propelled him into the spotlight was when he submitted a referendum proposal to the National Election Office this week on the creation of a autonomous Roma province in northeastern Hungary. Mr. Kamarás is calling for territorial autonomy and his proposal incorporates lands currently under the jurisdiction of four Hungarian counties.

The logic behind the proposal and Mr. Kamarás’ political movement, the Opre Roma-Gypsy Democratic People’s Party, is that Roma political elites in Hungary have been both corrupt and incompetent, doing almost nothing to help raise the nation’s largest and growing minority out of abject poverty. Mr. Kamarás refers specifically to the way in which EU funds aimed at Roma integration were misappropriated. His second rationale for territorial autonomy has to do with the changing demographics in counties like Nógrád and Borsod. In both counties, the proportion of students who belong to the Roma minority exceeds 33%. The national average is 15%, although the highest proportion of Roma school children anywhere in the country is found in Budapest’s 8th District, where 48% of students are Roma. (The Mandiner site published a noteworthy interview on these demographic realities with researcher Attila Z. Papp of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, back in 2015.)

The proposed autonomous Roma territory would be called the Roma Province of Northeastern Hungary (Észak- Magyarországi Roma Tartomány). The proposal was announced in the Csongrád county village of Magyarcsanád, which is perhaps best known for being a truly multicultural community. While the Roma actually only comprise 8% of the population according to official statistics, ethnic Romanians form 12% and thus the largest minority group. There is also a community of ethnic Serbs (2%) in this village of 1,400 residents. From what I could tell from photos posted to Facebook, the announcement of proposed territorial autonomy looked like a jovial, social event–akin to a picnic.

The referendum initiative, however, faces an uphill battle. First, the question must be approved by the National Election Office, after which point Mr. Kamarás and his supporters must collect at least 200,000 signatures. There are at least 1 million Roma in Hungary, so technically it would be possible to collect the required number of signatures with no support from the majority population. However, civic engagement among the Roma has been exceedingly low. If the question is accepted and if at least 200,000 valid signatures are collected, the referendum could proceed. The territorial integrity of Hungary is a very sensitive subject among Hungarians, in light of massive territorial losses following the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. Although Mr. Kamarás is not proposing outright separation from Hungary, I would be surprised if any major political party offers to support his concept in a referendum. For his part, Mr. Kamarás has announced that he will keep equal distance from all existing political parties.

Mr. Kamarás has, however, made effective use of social media. His Facebook page has around 2,000 followers and he is highly active in posting short video clips, vlogs, photos and other material. Mr. Kamarás is also currently on a national tour, spreading his message in eastern Hungarian towns with large Roma minorities. “Your origins are not important and your social class within the Gypsy community does not matter either. It does not matter where you live, nor does your economic background make a difference. It does not matter what party or ideology you supported up until now. Nor does your education, your profession or religion make a difference. There is only one thing that matters. If you agree with our mission, then walk with us. We Roma/Gypsy people will finally take our fate into our own hands”–writes Mr. Kamarás.

What exactly is the party’s program of Roma/Gypsy empowerment, other than territorial autonomy? Some of their demands offer fascinating concepts for study and debate, even though certain ideas may be problematic. One part of their platform focuses on a type of affirmative action program. Mr. Kamarás proposes to set a quota for the entire public sector, whereby ministries and organizations receiving public funds would be required to ensure that the Roma comprise a minimum proportion of the workforce, commensurate to their overall proportion of Hungary’s population or to their regional weight. Mr. Kamarás goes further: private firms that choose not to hire Roma, or to adhere to a certain proportion, would be required to pay a fee to the state, which would then be used to fund Roma integration programs. Another aspect of their platform is the establishment of a public institute that studies Roma languages, culture and history in Central Europe. Finally, the party supports the concept of guaranteed minimum income for all.

There is a significant problem with the otherwise fascinating idea of adopting a Roma quota and affirmative action program in public sector hiring. There is an acute labour shortage in Hungary and across so many sectors, Hungarian employers (both public and private) are struggling to fill vacant positions. I believe that despite latent discrimination and prejudice in Hungary, many of these employers would be happy to filling these long-standing vacancies with qualified Roma. The problem is that many unemployed or underemployed young Roma do not speak any foreign languages (this is absolutely essential in most fields in Hungary) and do not have adequate education or training. A Roma man or woman who is not at least functional in English or German, for instance, will not be hired to work in a hotel, restaurant, museum or other attraction anywhere in Budapest or the Lake Balaton area. Yet in both places, the tourism and hospitality sector is struggling to fill vacancies.

Mr. Kamarás is doing some of the grassroots building and campaigning that is so essential for any political movement to get off the ground. His group will also have to work with experts and professionals to vet his program. As well, he will endure the uphill battle of convincing the majority population that he poses no threat to Hungary’s territorial integrity and that his plan really does help integrate the Romani. Some are incredulous. One gentleman commented on the party’s Facebook page: “Perhaps you can start by simply not voting for Fidesz, even if the party transports you by bus right to the voting booth.” Another person commented that Mr. Kamarás should not try to establish a ghetto. The party president wrote back and correctly noted that territorial autonomy and ghettoisation are not the same.

The road ahead for Mr. Kamaras is long. He must mobilize local Roma at the grassroots level to be more engaged in civic issues and he must convince them not to vote for Fidesz, in exchange for very modest aid and bus rides to the voting booth. And he must also engage the majority population in a positive way.
© The Hungarian Free Press

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Hungary: Budapest has Announced they will Block the European Future of Ukraine

27/9/2017- Hungary will block in the EU and veto any step that may lead to further progress by Ukraine in the process of European integration under the Eastern Partnership program, reports Mediapool. This was stated by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Sijard in connection with the Education Act, which was signed yesterday by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, restricting the teaching of subjects in the languages ​​of the national minorities in Ukraine, TASS reported. Hungary will block any initiatives that are beneficial to Ukraine in international organizations, especially in the EU. We can guarantee that this will cause a painful blow to the future of Ukraine, the minister said. Poroshenko's decision to sign the law he called "shameful and disgraceful." In a statement by the Minister, published on the website of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, it is recalled that Poroshenko has talked about European Ukraine and that he has declared a desire for rapprochement with Europe, but his decision to sign the law is a move away from Europe, a huge step in the opposite direction.
© Novinite

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Dutch lorry firm stops UK trips due to refugee smuggling attempts

26/9/2017- Dutch firm Reining Transport has announced it is stopping deliveries to the UK as it cannot guarantee driver safety if refugees try to board at Calais. The firm reportedly has around 500 drivers and annual revenues of 55 million euros. According to the Dagblad van het Noorden, the firm based in Kolham in Groningen, stopped trips via Calais to England on 1st September due to aggression from refugees trying to smuggle themselves across the channel. Trade organisation TLN has said it is the first Dutch logistics company to ban English transports. Gerrit Hes, managing director, told the Dagblad van het Noorden that the decision was taken last year, and is worth €5 million to €6 million in sales. ‘Our drivers were often being threatened,’ he reportedly said. ‘Windows were being broken and stones were flying through the windscreens.’ He added, reported the Telegraaf, that refugees had tried to make holes in a truck’s roof in order to get in, and ‘drivers had to do all they could in order not to be waylayed.’

Brexit also played a role, he told the Dagblad van het Noorden: ‘Exports to England are always difficult. If there’s another problem in the pipeline, you take this decision faster.’ A Polish van driver was killed in June when refugees blocked the road with tree trunks. Although ‘the jungle’ refugee camp has now closed, refugees have reportedly started to gather in Calais again and some try to stop and board trucks to get to the UK. Drivers are fined €900 if someone is found smuggled aboard, and Reining Transport also said that such attempts can damage cargo and have led to higher insurance premiums.
© The Dutch News

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Austria's far right gives two cheers for German sister party's success

25/9/2017- Austria’s anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO), seeking to soften its image before Austrians go to the polls next month, offered only lukewarm praise on Monday for a record election showing by its sister party in neighboring Germany. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which says immigration threatens German culture, shocked the establishment by winning 12.6 percent in Sunday’s national ballot, becoming the first far-right party to enter parliament in more than half a century. Its close Austrian equivalent, the FPO, has lost its lead in opinion polls to the conservative People’s Party, led by 31-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who has made a hard line on immigration one of his hallmarks.

But tensions between the conservatives and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, before Austria’s Oct. 15 parliamentary election mean the FPO has arguably its best chance of entering national government since its leader Heinz-Christian Strache took over the reins 12 years ago. Strache said on Monday the AfD’s showing was “a huge success”, but added a note of caution. “We agree (with the AfD) when it comes to analyzing the problems but not necessarily regarding the solutions. There are differences indeed,” Strache told broadcaster ORF, without elaborating. “The AfD is a very young party which is, if you like, still in its infancy.” The Freedom Party was founded in the 1950s by former Nazis, an aspect of its history the party argues is no longer relevant to its policies. It has positioned itself as staunchly anti-Islam but now courts Jewish voters, with apparently limited success.

Strache has called anti-Semitism “a crime against humanity”, but Austria’s main Jewish group says the FPO is xenophobic and divisive. While the AfD also denies being a Nazi party, one of its leading candidates, Alexander Gauland, said this month that Germans should take pride in what their soldiers achieved during World Wars One and Two. “They (the FPO) are clearly setting themselves apart from Gauland’s rhetoric,” political analyst Peter Hajek said of Strache’s remarks. The AfD leadership cracked within hours of its electoral success on Monday when Frauke Petry, the highest-profile figure in its more moderate wing, stormed out of its victory news conference and abandoned its parliamentary group.
© Reuters

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Germany: Far-right AfD's surge worries Muslim refugees

The strong performance of the populist Alternative for Germany party in Sunday's election has worried Afghan and other Muslim migrants. They fear that the AfD's anti-immigration agenda may make life harder for them.

26/9/2017- The entry of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag (German parliament) has shocked many Germans, but the anti-immigration party's surge has also unsettled Muslim migrants in Germany. The AfD gained around 13 percent of votes in Sunday's parliamentary election, becoming the Bundestag's third largest party after Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Martin Schulz's Social Democratic Party (SPD). It is also the first time in more than half a century that a far-right group has made its way into the national parliament. The AfD capitalized on anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany in the wake of Europe's unprecedented refugee crisis. The party vehemently opposes Merkel's pro-refugee policies that have resulted in an influx of over a million refugees from Middle Eastern and North African countries into Germany over the past two years. The party raised anti-refugee slogans and held protests against what they deem the "Islamization" of Germany.

Winning back voters
In her victory speech, Merkel said she would try to win back right-wing voters in her next four years as German chancellor. This raises the specter of the AfD's success forcing mainstream political parties to alter their stance on immigration and push the agenda toward the political right that could result in more deportations and difficult asylum conditions. "I have been having sleepless nights since the election results came out. I fear the government could deport me to Afghanistan," Kabir Usmani, a Frankfurt-based Afghan asylum-seeker, told DW. "I left Afghanistan because I feared for my life, but I still live in fear — the fear of deportation," Usmani, who has been living in Germany for three years, added. Usmani's asylum application has been rejected by the authorities but he still hopes to stay in the country for a longer period.

Tougher policies
Even after losing over eight percent of votes compared to the 2013 election, German Chancellor Merkel has bravely defended her refugee policy, insisting that her decision to take in refugees mainly from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan in 2015 was right. But many, even in her own party, are skeptical toward the chancellor's approach. The major concern is that in order to win back right-wing supporters, Merkel could be forced to tighten her refugee policy. "I'm worried about the future. I fear that in order to gain right-wing support, Germany's political parties will toughen their stance towards us," Wafa Khan Wafa, an Afghan refugee living in a village near Cologne, told DW. Experts point out that the government has already taken a tough line toward refugees. Prior to the election, German authorities decided to resume deportations to Afghanistan that it had stopped after a deadly suicide attack near the German embassy in Kabul in June.

Belief in the system
Some migrants, however, are optimistic that Angela Merkel won't go too far in appeasing conservative sections of society. They say the AfD cannot undermine secular governance in Germany. "Post election, the behavior towards foreigners may change to some extent, similar to what happened in the US after Donald Trump became president, but as long as Merkel and other democratic politicians are determined, the system will be protected," a Bonn-based researcher from Pakistan told DW on condition of anonymity. Afghan refugee Wafa says the new situation demands that asylum-seekers must also do their best to fully integrate into German society. "It is very important for refugees to integrate in German society and fulfill their duties as law-abiding people so that the public opinion does not shift against them," he underlined.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Leader of AfD quit hours after election success because it’s too radical

25/9/2017- Just hours after the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) won its first-ever round of seats in the German parliament, its co-leader Frauke Petry told a press conference in Berlin—with her newly-elected colleagues next to her—that she had decided not to go into parliament with the party. Then she got up and stormed out of the press conference. “I think we should be open today that there is a disagreement over content in the AfD and I think we shouldn’t hush this up,” said Petry. She said she wanted to position herself as an independent politician and have a “conservative new start” but didn’t say whether she was founding a new party. Later, on her Facebook, she slammed the party for the “shrill and far-out statements of single members” which dominate the view the public has off them.

This doesn’t mean Petry is a moderate, she’s far from it. A member of the AfD since 2013, it was she who put the former eurosceptic party on its new anti-immigration platform during the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. She’s made numerous controversial statements about refugees too, including that “Islam does not belong in Germany,” and saying that German border police should be allowed to fire on migrants along the Austria-German border. Petry, who for some has been acceptable face of xenophobia, has been critical of radical statements made by others in the party as she believed it made it less attractive to moderate voters as well as for potential coalition partners when it would enter the Bundestag for the first time. In a party riddled with infighting, she was slammed by some members for not supporting comments made by an AfD leader in Thuringia state, who said Germany’s holocaust memorial made the country “laughable.” She also publicly criticized Gauland for saying Germany should be proud of what German soldiers had achieved in two world wars.

What now AfD?
It is unlikely that Petry’s sudden departure will mean much for the party, which many expect will struggle not only as a pariah in parliament, but also because it really only has one core policy issue—being against immigration. “It is part of a power struggle, in which she may hope that her steps will create more friction in the party,” Josef Janning of the European Council of Foreign Relations told Quartz. “She may also hope to split the faction and pull over some other deputies.” Janning believes the party’s success has laid it open to new risks: “Fringe parties are often built by rather special personalities, with big egos and narcissistic characters,” and these people’s inability to serve the greater good of the party can be its downfall. While the now-93 new AfD members of parliament can raise a stink in opposition, some political experts believe they won’t really make much difference in German politics. “No one will form a coalition with them. They’ll be excluded. Their motions will be shot down,” said Oskar Niedermayer, a politics professor at the Free University of Berlin. “If they put forward reasonable motions that other parties might agree with, they will be voted down, and the other parties will put forward slightly modified motions.”

No change in tone
Alexander Gauland stuck to his inflammatory rhetoric at the party’s first post-election press conference on Monday morning. “One million people, foreigners, being brought into this country are taking away a piece of this country and we as AfD don’t want that,” Gauland said. “We don’t want to lose Germany to an invasion of foreigners from a different culture.” It intends, Gauland said last night, to “hunt” Merkel, and “take back our country and our people.” That xenophobic message resonated with 15% of those who voted yesterday: An ARD/ Infratest Dimap poll on why Germans voted for the AfD found that nearly 70% of them were concerned about the fight against terrorism, and 60% were worried about both crime and the influx of refugees. The AfD’s nationalistic message propelled it to big wins in some former Eastern German states—it was the biggest party in Saxony. In former GDR states, the AfD is in second place overall, behind Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
© QUARTZ

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'Hard Confrontations' Ahead With Far-Right Party In German Parliament, Merkel Says

25/9/2017- Chancellor Angela Merkel may have won Germany's national election on Sunday, but her Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union faction only won a third of the vote, its poorest showing since 1949. In another blow to the incumbent leader, German voters also are sending right-wing nationalists to the parliament or Bundestag for the first time in 60 years. Exit polls suggest that decision was more of a protest vote than a German shift to the right. But the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which Merkel said nabbed 1 million of her voters, was jubilant about its better-than-expected returns of 12.6 percent across Germany, where an estimated 76 percent of registered voters turned out. In eastern Germany, where Merkel grew up, the right-wing nationalist party did even better, earning 21.5 percent of the votes.

At a post-election party, Alexander Gauland, one of the party's top leaders and a new member of Parliament, vowed to hunt down Merkel and anyone else who stands in the way of AfD's agenda. What that agenda entails is a matter of some debate. AfD spokespeople claim their goal is a sensible immigration policy and getting Germany out of the Eurozone so that German taxpayers stop paying for bailouts of other European countries that use the currency. Another AfD leader and new member of Parliament, Alice Weidel, has also vowed to start a parliamentary inquiry into Merkel and her refugee policy. But the right-wing group's many critics – including every other party headed to the Bundestag – accuse AfD of deep-rooted xenophobia, anti-Semitism and having a nationalist agenda that threatens to tear Germany apart.

At a televised debate in Berlin on Sunday night, those parties pointed out Gauland's speech earlier this month, when he called on Germans to be proud of what their soldiers achieved during the First and Second World Wars. During the televised debate, Merkel vowed there would be "hard confrontations" between her faction and the AfD in Parliament. And within the AfD on Monday, internal squabbles erupted as well, when one of its co-chairs, Frauke Petry, walked out on an AfD press conference after saying she had no interest in serving in Parliament with the rest of her party's ticket. She suggested she would start her own version of the party, but without the extremist rhetoric. "I'm happy we won because for 4 1/2 years, we worked hard to get into the Parliament," she told German Public Television ARD. "But unfortunately, our party frightens too many voters. We have in Germany an estimated 30 percent of voters who want sensible, conservative policies and can't find anyone to provide them, so I am available to fulfill that role."

Merkel says a top task on her agenda is to win back AfD voters to her conservative faction. But she first must partner with one or more of the other parties in the next Parliament to begin her new term as chancellor. That will be a difficult negotiation that Merkel says could last until Christmas — or longer. Martin Schulz, the leader of Merkel's most recent coalition partner, the Social Democrats, said in no uncertain terms that it won't be his party. His SPD ran on a social justice platform aimed at easing income disparity and improving welfare benefits and education, but it didn't persuade voters. The party had its poorest showing in many decades. During the TV debate on Sunday night, Schulz blamed the loss on Merkel. "This grand coalition was voted out," he said. "It's clear the people don't want it and the role that's been assigned us is to be the opposition." Merkel fired back she was "sad the good work we did in the grand coalition is now being characterized this way."

She had campaigned on her record as a highly respected leader not only in Germany, but also internationally. She highlighted the country's record-low unemployment and strong economic growth under her leadership. But German unhappiness over the long-time leader's refugee policy — which allowed more than a million asylum seekers into the country since 2015 — was something from which Merkel never fully recovered. "Merkel has become a very polarizing figure, something she never envisioned for herself, never saw happening," said Merkel biographer Stefan Kornelius, the foreign editor of Germany's daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "As much as she pushed to the center on the refugee issue and brought in the left part of electoral voters in her camp," he said, she lost voters to the right of the spectrum.

As early as this week, Merkel's faction will start talks with two possible coalition partners: The pro-environmental Green party and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, which Merkel said won 1.3 million voters from her faction. The Green party and Free Democrats are hardly natural allies. Merkel says under no circumstances will she ask the other two winners — the Left Party, which is the successor to the East German communists, and the AfD — to be in her government. But even though Merkel and other mainstream politicians in Germany want to isolate AfD, they won't be able to ignore the party completely. The right-wing party last year helped shift the debate on asylum seekers from one over integration into German society to one focused on increasing and speeding up deportations.

There is one thing Merkel and AfD more or less agree on: the need to engage the Trump administration. The right-wing nationalists have said they see a kindred spirit in President Trump, even if AfD's lead candidate Alice Weidel criticized his Twitter habit at a recent news conference Merkel, during her only televised debate during the campaign, said Germany must work with the U.S. on issues like ISIS and Afghanistan and that despite their differences on diplomacy, trade and climate change, she will do her best to find common ground with the American leader.
© NPR

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Germans are protesting the surge of far-right AfD by raising their middle finger

25/9/2017- After the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party surged to third place in Germany's election on Sunday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Berlin to voice their dismay. The nationalist, anti-same-sex marriage, and anti-euro party won about 13% of the national vote in Sunday's election, marking the first time a far-right party has sat in the German parliament's lower house since the collapse of the Nazi party in World War II. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) came in first with about 33% of the vote — down from 41.5% in the last election four years ago. Demonstrators fashioned creative signs — including some of Mickey Mouse's hand with the middle finger up — to stand up against AfD.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Troubling German election results prove far-right nationalism is by no means dead in Europe

From Hungary to France and from the Netherlands to Poland, the anti-establishment, anti-migrant, anti-EU vote has not collapsed, even if it hasn’t actually grabbed significant power in Western Europe yet

25/9/2017- The Germans, so we’re told, call their newly re-elected Chancellor Mutti, or mammy. If so, and I apologise for the unpalatable imagery, Angela Merkel has just given political birth to some frightening offspring – Nazis in the Reichstag building again. Plus her centre-right Christian Democrat group has slumped to its worst showing pretty much in the entire post-war era. She has also dragged down her Social Democrat allies in her grand coalition with her – collapsing to a mere fifth of the vote for what was once a proud natural party of Government in the federal republic. Between them these two old established parties now command barely half the vote, where they once together completely dominated the scene. German politics is fragmenting and is a much more dangerous place than the comforting headlines about a fourth term for mummy suggest.

The message is plain: from Hungary to France and from the Netherlands to Poland, the anti-establishment, anti-migrant, anti-EU vote has not collapsed, even if it hasn’t actually grabbed significant power in Western Europe. Yet. No one should feel easy about hard-right groups coming second or third in national elections, still less first, as in Poland and Hungary. Maybe the AfD is less Nazi than we might fear, and it has the usual complement of misfits and the confused: but there should be no room for complacency. In Germany there now has to be a coalition that ensures the AfD don’t become the official opposition in the Bundestag – which means the free democrats and Greens have to do some serious compromising with Mutti. That’s because the rump SPD have to be allowed to be the opposition rather than join another grand coalition with the Christian Democrats, which would mean leaving the opposition role, plus perks and prestige, to the AfD. Unthinkable. Thankfully the SPD is so enfeebled it would be suicide to go in with Merkel again.

Just because Merkel and Macron won does not mean these extremists are just going to pack up and go home. We need seriously to think about what will happen if and when M&M, as we might label them, start to lose popularity in France and Germany. Where will voters turn then? Is it impossible more would turn to the National Front or AfD? No. Like many far-right combinations, the AfD could easily splinter: such factions often do. Yet they cannot be dismissed, nor ought the concerns of the voters who fell for their easy slogans. Merkel was brave and right to stick to her policy and allow the Syrian refugees in: but she badly failed to win the argument about migration, and perhaps Europe, even if she did, sort of, win this scrappy election.
© The Independent

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Facing far-right gains, Merkel, Schulz urge undecided Germans to vote

23/9/2017- German Chancellor Angela Merkel, poised to win a fourth term in Sunday’s election, and her center-left challenger Martin Schulz urged supporters on Saturday to keep fighting for votes with a third of the electorate still undecided. Merkel is widely expected to cruise to re-election with the Schulz’s Social Democrats trailing by double digits but the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) could emerge as the third largest party, complicating the outlook for her next coalition. A new INSA poll published by Bild newspaper showed sliding support for Merkel’s conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 percent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 percent - both now joined in an unwieldy “grand coalition”. The anti-immigrant AfD, meanwhile, rose two percentage points to 13 percent, cementing its bid to be the first far-right party to enter parliament since the end of World War Two.

Merkel urged supporters to drum up votes by focusing on conservatives’ efforts on behalf of families, a pledge to avoid tax increases and emphasis on increasing security in Germany. The Christian Democratic leader also lauded the role of the European Union in providing stability in “a troubled world”. “We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people today. Many are still undecided,” Merkel said before heading north to her home constituency. In Greifswald, she led a crowd in practicing CPR as loudspeakers blared the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive”. “I should be in better shape, with the international media here, but I’ll give it a try,” a smiling Merkel told the crowd. First elected in 2005, Merkel remains popular in Germany but has regularly faced jeers and whistles from left- and right-wing demonstrators during rallies during this campaign.

In Munich on Friday, Merkel defended her 2015 decision to admit about one million asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds, but pledged to prevent a repeat of that crisis. In the western city of Aachen, Schulz pledged to fight for every vote until polls close at 6 p.m. on Sunday. He said high voter turnout was vital to offset growing support for the AfD, whom he described as “a party of haters.” “Young people, think about Brexit. Think about Trump,” he said. “Go vote. Take this right to vote seriously, and use it.” Schulz said the SPD overcame resistance from conservatives in their coalition to push through a minimum wage, same-sex marriage and other social priorities. Schulz asserted that Merkel was “a world champion in not deciding,” someone who simply parroted others’ ideas. He vowed to push for further reforms, including better elderly care facilities, affordable housing, an end to discriminatory practices that harm children of migrants, and free child care.

Mounting Concern About AfD
Merkel’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, told Internet provider t-online.de the government would combat “Islamist terrorism” by strengthening European borders and bolstering security at home. He criticized the AfD as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency was studying “whether right-wing extremists are seizing power and exerting influence on the party”. The AfD was founded in 2013 with the original goal of opposing large bailouts of financially strapped euro zone countries but from 2015 shifted its focus to immigration. Mainstream parties have ruled out governing with the AfD. It has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after its top candidate Alexander Gauland said the German integration minister should be dumped in her parents’ homeland of Turkey, and that Germans should be proud of what their military did in World War One and Two.

Jewish and Muslim groups say the AfD’s rhetoric has opened the door to more hate speech and anti-Semitism. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Reuters he feared the AfD’s entry into parliament would change the public tone in Germany. “I worry that the AfD will aggressively deepen divisions in our country,” he said. The AfD, which has already won seats in 13 of 16 state legislatures in Germany, has promised to reenergize debate in the federal parliament after four years of what it calls “boring” rule by Merkel’s grand coalition. AfD executive board member Georg Pazderski told Reuters the party was seeing a huge increase in support. “People are no longer ashamed to come to the AfD and to identify with the AfD.”

Electoral arithmetic might yet nudge Merkel to renew her coalition with the SPD, or she might opt for a three-way alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmental Greens. FDP Chief Christian Lindner told a rally in Duesseldorf his party hoped to be the third biggest force in parliament, but would only govern if its demands and conditions were met. “We won’t govern at any price,” he said, suggesting the FDP could potentially have more impact as an opposition force.
© Reuters

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Statistically speaking, black people in Germany don’t exist

Thanks to the refugee crisis, race and immigration have played prominently in Germany’s upcoming election.

23/9/2017- Immigration is the top issue for Germans voting in the federal race on Sept. 24. Germany’s interior minister has a 10-point proposal for defining national identity, including that “we don’t do burqa.” The far right’s campaign posters boast headlines like: “Burqas? We like bikinis,”; “New Germans? We can make them ourselves,”; and “Islam doesn’t fit with our cuisine.” The ads feature scantily clad women, a pregnant white woman, and piglets, respectively. But mysteriously absent from this debate is the voice of racial minorities. “Black people in Germany are mostly invisible,” says Daniel Gyamerah of Diversity in Leadership, a German advocacy group for people of color that advocates for equality of data.

Germany doesn’t see race—or at least it pretends not to. Racial categories that are commonplace in the US and UK—such as white, black, and Asian—don’t exist in Germany. The government doesn’t see any need to measure the number of ethnic minorities in certain schools, universities, and jobs, because it doesn’t want to divide its citizens. The prevailing argument, which holds in much of Western Europe, is “if you don’t want to create racism, you have to avoid using categories,” says Simon Patrick, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Demographic Studies. Everyone is German, the thinking goes, and should be treated the same across the board.

To some, these are lofty principles aimed at boosting equality. But many feel they harm racial progress. While the racist sentiments of the far right often spark heated debate, there is little discussion of the deep-seated discrimination plaguing established communities of color on matters like education, policing, and employment. The election’s focus on immigration has overshadowed these issues, leaving black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities in the dark. In a country that prides itself on the use of data and evidence, the lack of information speaks volumes. The result, says Gyamerah, is that if “you’re not counted, then you don’t count.”

One size fits all
Germany doesn’t collect racial statistics (i.e., black, white, Asian). So while the US knows its black population makes up roughly 13% of its population, and the UK’s black population amounts to roughly 3%, Germany is clueless. A UN team that recently examined racism in Germany estimated there to be many as one million people with “African roots” in Germany, more than 1% of the population. But such estimates are unreliable, partly because it’s unclear how many black people would identify as having “African roots.” What Germany does document is the country of origin of recent immigrants. According to official statistics, one in five German residents are now first or second-generation immigrants, meaning either they were born in another country or have one parent born in another country. (For a rough sense of comparison, 11% of France’s population has at least one immigrant parent.)

Among German voters, one in ten have a migrant background. The country’s largest immigrant block (amounting to just over half of its immigrant voters) is made up of ethnic Germans from largely former Soviet countries (largely known as Spätaussiedler) and Turkish Germans. Beyond that, the demographic data is extremely hazy. All ethnic minority Germans who aren’t first or second-generation immigrants are just labeled “German.” Large immigrant groups like Turkish Germans have gained some clout, partly by winning seats in parliament. But without granular data, the tendency is still to view migrant voters as one political force. “There is not that one type of migrant voter. Why should somebody who came to Germany from Ukraine 20 years ago have the same political preferences as somebody who moved here from southern Turkey? Or somebody who came here from Italy in the 1950s?” Dennis Spies, a researcher on migrant voter behavior in Germany, told Deutsche Welle.

By contrast, ethnic minorities in the UK and US are now a formidable political force. In 1965, there were just six black Americans in the House of Representatives. By 2015, that figure jumped to 44. This year, the UK elected its most diverse parliament to date (jumping from three ethnic minority MPs in 1987 to 52). Black Americans played a crucial role in electing Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. In the 2016 presidential election, low voter turnout among blacks was considered a major reason for why Hillary Clinton lost. In the UK, ethnic minorities helped the Labour Party gain enough ground to deny prime minister Theresa May a governing majority in parliament. Politicians in these countries outwardly court ethnic minorities. In a nod to black culture, Clinton famously told a radio host she keeps “hot sauce” in her bag, while UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn courted grime artists to mobilize black and ethnic minority voters.

This just doesn’t exist in Germany. “Policy makers don’t even know that black people as a group exist,” says Gyamerah. They are genuinely “surprised when we talk about black people,” he says. The lack of attention results in racism, and makes solving problems caused by racism harder to fix. “If you want to implement anti-discrimination policies, you need to identify those who are facing discrimination,” says Patrick. In German schools, for instance, advocates of ethnic minorities say teachers block minority pupils from advancing. Students of color are overrepresented in the worst schools in Germany (and underrepresented in the schools designed to send children to universities) and discriminated against in the labor market. “You have no real proof, although you have a lot of anecdotal evidence,” says Sarah Chander, an advocacy officer for the European Network Against Racism.

Racial profiling is also a problem with police. In 2016, when Germany was rocked by allegations of mass sexual assault by Arab men on New Year’s Eve, police claimed an acronym they used to describe screened suspects, ‘Nafris’ (an abbreviation of “Nordafrikanische Intensivtaeter” or “North African Repeat Offenders”), was not racist. A recent UN report found racist stereotypes prevent authorities from properly investigating and prosecuting racist violence and hate crimes. By contrast, in the UK, accessible data shows black Brits are four times as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped and searched by the police. Armed with this fact, black and ethnic minority communities and racial justice organization have successfully pressured the government to change tack and reform the police force. They pointed to studies that showed stop and search does little to reduce crime and that racial discrimination was a leading cause (pdf) of black and Asian Brits being stopped and searched more.

A long, hard road
Ethnic minorities have existed in Germany since long before the refugee crisis, even if they don’t feature prominently in history as its told. The country’s sizable minority population is the result of 17th century black servants coming to Germany, the country’s colonial presence in Namibia, Cameroon, Togo, and Tanzania, foreign black soldiers stationed in Germany during World War II, and later migration waves from Turkey and other southern countries. The few black and ethnic minority politicians who do exist face a lot of abuse. One of Germany’s first black MPs, Senegalese-born Karamba Diaby, is fighting a torrent of online criticism (including being called “a black monkey”, a “traitor”, and “nigger”) in his bid for reelection. Last month, the National Democratic Party (NPD), a far right party, shared an image of Diaby campaign poster with the caption: “German representative of the people, according to the SPD. Who betrayed us? The Social Democrats.” Diaby quickly replied with a post of his own, boldly stating, “I am not your negro."
 
AFD leader Alexander Garland cut down a German public servant of Turkish origin for denying that there was a “specific German culture” and said he wanted to “dispose of her in Anatolia.” German chancellor Angela Merkel joined a chorus of critics accusing Gauland of racism. Some suggest the paucity of data is intentional. These are policies that allow dominant groups to “keep the position and domination in the country,” says Patrick. Whatever the reason, it’s clear the problem will persist long after this election season.
© QUARTZ

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Ukraine's Roma Face Rise in Mob Justice. A Year on From Odessa 'Pogrom,'

25/9/2017- In the hours after the mutilated body of a 9-year-old girl was found in a forest near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, rumors spread quickly that a local Roma man had been arrested — and violent retribution followed. A meeting of local leaders the same day in August last year denounced nearby Roma as criminals and demanded evictions, while a mob circled homes, pelting buildings with rocks and trashing a community where many Roma had lived for a decade, said rights groups. By early September, all two dozen Roma targeted, including 17 children, had fled. A year on, they remain in temporary housing in Izmail, southwest Ukraine, and say they are unable to return home to their village of Loshchinovka for fear of further violence, according to the Roma Human Rights Center (RHRC). Rights groups say the attack follows a pattern of xenophobic "pogroms" across Ukraine against the Roma, also known as gypsies, to which the state has turned a blind eye.

With ancestral roots in India, the Roma migrated to eastern Europe in the 10th century and have a history marked by persecution. Since Ukraine's "Euromaiden" revolution of 2014, government agencies — bogged down in a series of economic and political crises and a conflict with Russian-backed forces in the east — have failed to guarantee the safety of Roma, said Volodymyr Kondur, head of Odessa RHRC. "The situation has become more complicated throughout Ukraine: Roma are not protected, the state is not able to provide security," Kondur, who works to represent the affected communities in Izmail, told Reuters. There are between 120,000 and 400,000 Roma in Ukraine who face poverty and discrimination, with limited access to justice and their property rights barely protected, according to the European Roma Rights Centre. In the year since the Odessa riot, there have been at least eight mass attacks on Roma, in the metropolitan regions of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv as well as the rural areas of Transcarpathi and Chernigov, said Kondur.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry said 20 police officers in Odessa had undergone training since the attacks to teach them how to deal with hate crimes and investigate Roma communities without discrimination. A spokesman said police and local authorities have planned further training exercises to encourage cooperation with Roma communities, including a series of classes for Roma participants on legal rights.

Ukraine's 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
In Odessa, 22-year-old Roma man, Mykhaylo Chebotar, accused of the young girl's rape and murder, is in custody and is scheduled to go on trial October 19, according to the Ukrainian Human Rights Information Center. But campaigners said an entire community has been collectively punished with exile. Oleg Shynkarenko, a writer and activist at the advocacy group the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) likens the story to a Ukrainian retelling of To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel about a lawyer defending a black man against murder charges, amid racial hatred in the American South. "Nobody knows if that gypsy man is the real murderer, because the trial is not finished, but the locals have destroyed Roma's buildings and state officials did not stop it or even condemn it," Shynkarenko told Reuters. Odessa State Regional Administration did not respond to written questions or phone calls.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who was then governor of Odessa State, singled out Chebotar for blame in the murder case in a news conference the day after the attack. Saakashvili said he understood the anger directed at the Roma, claiming Chebotar was among "anti-social elements" in the village that he said were involved in "massive drug dealing." Such sweeping charges are "indicative of the treatment that many Roma in Ukraine experience on a regular basis," said Neil Clarke, European Managing Director of Minority Rights Group International.

Justice soon?
Kondur said authorities have offered no answers about when the Roma families can return to Loshchinovka or why police did not intervene to stop the vigilante attacks. Rights groups' demands for alternative housing for the Roma have not been met, with authorities blaming the war and the country's economic troubles for their inability to provide homes, he added. Attempts by the community to pursue justice in courts have moved slowly but, in April, UHHRU lawyer Yulia Lisova secured a hearing in Ukraine's administrative courts that will consider whether Roma's rights were violated by the authorities' failure to protect them from attack. "If we get the result in defense of the Roma, the community will understand that there will always be a punishment for crimes. Then people will think about their actions before they commit," Kondur said.
© Reuters

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Serbian Rightists Hail AfD's Strong Showing in Germany

After the far-right Alternative für Deutschland, AfD, celebrated its strong performance in Sunday's German elections, Serbian rightists have hurried to send their congratulations.

25/9/2017- Right-wing Serbian nationalists have lined up to congratulate the far-right AfD in Germany, which secured 13 per cent of the vote in Sunday's general election and entered the Bundestag for the first time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected for a fourth time - but her Christian Democrats, the CDU, scored their worst result since 1949. Sending his “personal congratulations for the results to the leader of AfD, Alice Weidel," the head of the small far-right National Freedom Movement, Miroslav Parovic, said on Sunday: "We are small party, but from Athens to Berlin and from Paris to Moscow, we now have friends in positions that can help Serbia.”

During the spring presidential elections in Serbia, the National Freedom Movement received support from the AfD, whose representatives participated in rallies of the movement's presidential candidate, Parovic. One of the AfD leaders, Markus Frohnmaier was a speaker at an event of the National Freedom Movement held in the town of Smederevska Palanka on March 26. “We will jointly build the Paris - Berlin - Belgrade - Moscow axis and I look forward to our future meetings, and there will be a lot of them in future,” he said on the YouTube channel of the Movement. A right-wing, Eurosceptic party, the AfD is best known for its strident opposition to immigration. It saw its fortunes rise on the backs of hostility to Merkel's controversial decision to allow about a million migrants fleeing the Syrian war to enter Germany.

Sunday’s election saw the far-right party become the third largest political force in Germany, with around 90 seats in the Bundestag. “Today, after the elections in Germany we expect another crack in the walls of the dungeon of the people,” Goran Davidovic, leader of the neo-Nazi National Machine wrote on Sunday on Twitter. Along with another member of his group, he is being tried in absentia in Serbia for initiating national, racial and religious hatred and intolerance. Bosko Obradovic, head of the more mainstream right-wing Dveri party, which has seven MPs in the Serbian parliament, also sent his greetings to the AfD. “All congratulations to our friends from the AfD. See you in Bundestag and in Belgrade. Move on. It is time for the Alternative for Serbia,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Obradovic was guest of the AfD in March 2017, ahead of the Serbian presidential election in April. His host was Jörg Moyten, one of the leaders of AfD, who agreed with Obradovic on the importance of family values and the fight against “Brussels commissioners”, as well as the protection of state borders during the time of the migrant crisis. During the meeting, the head of Dveri invited AfD representative to visit Serbia.
© Balkan Insight

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How to be Against Racism and for Free Speech (opinion)

By Frank H. Wu, Professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law.

24/9/2017- People talk about “free speech” more than they think about it. I have come around to a new understanding. Most of the public does not care about legal doctrine, the abstract rules and their rationale. I have realized that those of us trained in the formal reasoning about these norms must reckon with the prevailing attitudes instead of trying to lecture others about their misconceptions. The first thing that shocks me, even though it should not, is that hardly anybody, whatever their opinion or identity, embraces the First Amendment in a “content neutral” manner. They react depending on the substance of what is said. I point this out not to criticize them but to criticize myself and others who try to be purists.

We have to acknowledge that the neutrality we idealize is all but impossible. People are selective in sympathy: today’s free speech champions would ridicule into silence those whom they regard as hypersensitive or “politically correct,” who would return the favor of disparagement. They characterize what they do not like as incitement or as conduct rather than expression. Those of us who try to set aside our own feelings do not inspire others in our convictions. We are worse then both sides’ opponents, for seeming as if we follow a superior ethic. (For philosophers, my argument is that “rule utilitarianism” is not compelling, other than to philosophers. The conclusion that, on balance, society is better off with more speech instead of less speech appeals only to people who accept an accounting of morality. The people around us rely on a concrete context to calculate benefits and costs.)

For example, I do not believe what people think I believe. Mine is the classic free speech position, strengthened, not weakened, by an appreciation of the harm of hate speech — which calls for its vigorous antithesis. I have established myself as anti-racist, including through action in official roles and as an ordinary person, not merely with obligatory rhetoric. Yet I also am convinced racism should be challenged rather than suppressed. My goal is to engage prejudice in order to defeat it. So as a higher education leader I have directed staff to avoid anything resembling censorship; as a writer, I have supported the right to speech that is “offensive;” and as a teacher, I have opposed “trigger warnings.” I am open minded out of self interest. My growth has come from being shown I am wrong, not from being assured I am entitled.

Second, on the internet especially, the concept of censorship has been transformed. In casual discussion, and everything is casual or it is condemned for its self-importance, “censorship” has been extended from a government restriction on free speech to any effort to edit. Technically, it is against official policies, including “prior restraints,” that free speech is to be protected. It has come, however, to refer to any decision affecting communication. A website that does not wish to appear to be endorsing racial prejudice; a private employer also protecting diversity and equality; even another person who is critical (ironically, and that is an appropriate use of the word, doing exactly what free speech proponents supposedly are advocating) — all of them are denounced as “censors.”

What we might term “old-school” free speech was about the government allowing people to assemble, march, carry banners, and deliver orations, in particular attacking the government itself, in the interest of the democratic process. It had limitations. People were not forced to affiliate themselves with others with whom they disagreed. They had their own choice of how to define themselves. They also had a corresponding right not to watch or listen. That was the objection to the objection to obscenity: you can ignore it.

Third, there was never a notion that free speech meant no consequences would follow from your remarks. The state could not punish you criminally such as through imprisonment or penalize you civilly such as through loss of your job as a civil servant. But if you were a civil rights activist, people could and did shun you, including even within the community of which you were a member and on behalf of which you were taking real risks. You did not have recourse. The contemporary version would prohibit what a lawyer would deem a “non-state actor” from telling a bigot that his free speech in the workplace violates another employee’s right against discrimination, based on race, gender, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. Taken to an extreme, it would eliminate any claim against the “hostile work environment.” Intolerance would be privileged over inclusion.

It is as if to say that because everyone has a right to speak that everyone also is right in that speech. If all discourse were a report of one’s own emotions, then that would be justifiable sentiment. But some utterances are assertions of fact or applications of logic, and they can, should, and must be judged against standards that are agreed upon. The license of free speech does not imply that in biology or physics, or even history or literature, a professor cannot grade a student legitimately and fairly. Otherwise, free speech is reduced to monologue, at best a series of them, each of us ranting in turn if we are even polite enough to wait. Lost is the aspiration for dialogue, which was the purpose of promoting free speech.

I once taught a seminar on the First Amendment. I did so at a unique school, Deep Springs College. Located on a student-run cattle ranch at the edge of Death Valley, it was the perfect place for this subject. People there, faculty, staff, students, and community members alike, were aware they would interact with one another again and again and again, from the classroom to the fields to the communal Boarding House where all meals were taken together. Since they learned and labored together, with more than the semblance of self-government, isolated from the world, they had the respect for individualism that is instilled only by a common cause. Weekly public speaking is integral to the regimen. The value of free speech is evident.

In most situations, we are strangers. We do not expect to form the bond of mutual support. Yet speech enables society, as society depends on speech. Hermits do not need free speech any more than they require law. Free speech is both powerful and fragile. “Free speech” is as much a practice as a principle. It deserves good speech.
© The Huffington Post

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France: Marine Le Pen's former right-hand man launches new party

Florian Philippot, former vice-president of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party, announced Friday that his political movement Les Patriotes, or The Patriots, has now become a political party.

29/9/2017- The announcement came one week after Philippot quit the FN after profound disagreements with its leader Marine Le Pen. “This political structure will serve to bring the Patriots together,” Philippot said Friday on French television channel LCI. “Just eight days ago I never would have imagined this,” Philippot added. “I always said I would continue to be politically active.” The politician said that some 3,000 people have joined his movement since its creation in May, after Le Pen lost to Emmanuel Macron in the second and final round of the presidential election. The newly-minted Patriots leader intends to organise a political “tour de France” next year consisting of local meetings and debates. “We are not sectarian, so The Patriots could easily work with other groups, such as political parties or unions,” Philippot said, in an apparent jab at his former party’s focus on identity politics.

Philippot's departure reveals deeper FN tension
Since the FN’s defeat in the presidential election, it has been struggling with an internal debate about whether to shift away from its traditional priorities of immigration and French identity, or to focus more on economic nationalism, understood as strongly protective economic policy at the national level. Philippot had promoted the latter, and was one of the key figures in drafting the FN’s proposal to leave the euro zone and return to the franc. His efforts to steer the FN away from its traditional base of anti-immigration hardliners, towards a platform more concerned with jobs and the economy, ultimately revealed the deepening fissures within the party itself. According to Marine Le Pen, Philippot’s suggestion that the party is returning to the extremism and anti-Semitism of the party’s beginnings under her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, “made absolutely no sense.”
© RFI.

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Brooking no dissent, Marine Le Pen takes grip on French far-right

25/9/2017- Marine Le Pen has acted to reassert her authority over France’s far-right National Front with the forced departure of her deputy, but still faces a struggle to persuade the party base that she has what it takes to win an election. The exit of Florian Philippot, who quit last week over policy differences with Le Pen since her resounding defeat by Emmanuel Macron in May’s presidential election, shows the 49-year-old daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen can be tough when required. But her past flip-flops over policy, and less-than-assured performance in a TV debate against Macron before the presidential run-off, have raised doubts about whether she can take the National Front from being a major factor in French politics to a party that can hold power. “Le Pen’s image has seriously deteriorated,” said Frederic Dabi of polling group Ifop, who carried out a survey on Sept 7-8 that shows only 27 percent of voters think she has the stature of a president, down seven percentage points since March.

“Her problem in terms of image is not authority, she is seen as being very firm, but it is competence, stature,” he said. “Can she be seen as an alternative to Emmanuel Macron? It’s not looking that way.” Le Pen took a lower-than-expected 33.9 percent of votes in the presidential run-off, while her party won only 8.75 percent in the second round of parliamentary elections that followed. However, support for the European far-right may not have peaked despite setbacks in the Netherlands and Austria too. At the weekend, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany scored 12.6 percent in federal elections, becoming the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag in more than half a century -- an outcome Le Pen praised.

Image Adjustment
A lawyer by training, Le Pen took over the party in 2011 and quickly managed to build a broader following. She succeeded in detoxifying its image, distancing it from the anti-Semitic labels it attracted under her father, and adopting pro-welfare economic policies that appealed to a wider range of voters. Out went her father, the one-eyed former paratrooper who reveled in provocative comments, expelled from the party in 2015. In came the daughter’s softer image, with talk of lowering the retirement age and protecting workers. She went on TV to talk about her love of gardening. A lot of that image adjustment was down to Philippot, a graduate of France’s elite ENA administrative school who joined the party in 2011 and quickly rose to the top, an architect of Le Pen’s 2012 and 2017 campaigns. But having broken with her father and now with Philippot, Le Pen must now show that she can get the policy mix right before another possible presidential bid in 2022.

The dispute with Philippot came to a head over the party’s anti-euro stance. For her supporters, Le Pen’s willingness to sacrifice her closest aide when he refused to do what he was told underscores her leadership credentials. “It shows that she gives priority to what’s good for the party above personal considerations,” Gaetan Dussausaye, the head of the party’s youth group, told Reuters. “She knows what she wants, she’s got strong beliefs and she’ll do whatever is necessary to defend them,” said Dussausaye, who is a member of the National Front’s top political committee.

But others worry about her flashes of aggression and lack of preparedness in the presidential debate, followed by the elections underperformance. They believe this means she has work to do to persuade the grassroots -- and beyond them, a big enough number of voters -- that she’s a winner. A survey by Odoxa pollsters, carried out on Sept 6-7, showed that the biggest danger for Le Pen may come from within -- from inside the family as much as the party. This showed Marion Marechal-Le Pen, Marine’s niece, who temporarily stepped away from politics, is the only top official seen as an asset by a majority of party members surveyed. More than half saw Marine Le Pen as a liability.

Policy Mix
Jerome Riviere, a former conservative lawmaker who joined Le Pen’s campaign team, praised her openness to adjustments, including softening her anti-euro stance. “A good party chief needs to be representative of what grassroots activists want,” he said. But Le Pen’s handling of the break with Philippot led others to conclude that she no longer knows where she stands. “There is a rise in influence of people who advise her in a way that is not true to her beliefs or good for the party,” Alain Avello, a regional councillor, told Reuters. Avello, who once described himself a “Marine-ite”, is one of several National Front members to have quit the party after Philippot’s departure. A crucial question will be how much Le Pen now allows the party’s policies to evolve.

Philippot had long advocated a tough anti-euro and pro-welfare policy, which Le Pen had backed. But others want the party to re-focus on its anti-immigrant, economically liberal roots. It is expected to decide a new strategy and policies at a congress in March. In a letter to National Front members the day Philippot quit, Le Pen said the debate on overhauling the party would continue until the congress. She will tour France to meet supporters, who will be asked in a questionnaire how they want the party to change. “It is important to me that you, National Front members, be the ones to decide,” Le Pen said.
© Reuters

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France: Where Marine Le Pen goes from here

25/9/2017- He was her right-hand man, her geek, her answers guy, ready with emailed talking points at all hours of the day and night — in addition to being a friend. But now Florian Philippot, who stepped down Thursday as the National Front’s vice president, is out of the picture. And National Front leader Marine Le Pen has to figure out how her far-right party can adapt to a radically changed political environment without his brain to rely on. It won’t be easy. Le Pen was never a political theorist. Philippot provided her, wholesale, with the intellectual framework of her anti-EU agenda and taught her how to use it. Now that he’s gone, Le Pen needs to reassert her battered authority over divided and restive troops after Philippot’s blatant defiance of her leadership.

She also needs to find a new formula that will help the Front avoid extinction in its next two major political battles: municipal and European Parliament elections in 2019, which party troops now see as a historic showdown with Macron’s pro-European form of liberalism. As far as they are concerned, 2019 should be payback time for Le Pen’s heavy loss to Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election this year. What to expect? Most likely, an abrupt lurch back to traditional National Front messages: anti-immigration, hard-line on law and order, and strong on French cultural identity — with much less emphasis on EU-bashing. But there will be plenty of twists along the way. Based on talks with some of Le Pen’s senior lieutenants, here’s a roadmap of priorities over the next few months for Europe’s pre-eminent far-right politician.

First things first: banish Philippot’s name, airbrush his likeness from official portraits, smash any statues devoted to him.
In the tradition of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, the National Front immediately got to work dismantling Philippot’s legacy after he left. “He’s a conceptual guy. He doesn’t go into the field. He lacks human empathy, and that crucial political substance: a feeling for people,” said Jean Messiha, a senior party member and campaign strategist. “He had a fixation on the economic question. He considered that everything had to start with an exit from the eurozone.” Another senior aide, former conservative MP Jérôme Rivière, called Philippot’s decision to leave “childish and capricious.” “During the legislative elections, he hijacked the party’s message for himself, making it all about the euro,” said Rivière. “He doesn’t let up. Then he founded his own group, in a sort of childish tantrum. I’ve been in politics a long time and I never saw anything like that.”

With Philippot’s legacy rubbed from the history books, Le Pen can start re-establishing her authority over the party in earnest.
After her defeat, Philippot was quoted as saying that Le Pen was “burned” — although he denied having said it. A party ally, Robert Ménard, called for her to step down from the National Front’s presidency. Now Le Pen needs to stamp out such talk, or see strong-willed lieutenants like Gilbert Collard steamroll over her. “It’s true that through this crisis, she’s been weakened, she is diminished. Her leadership is contested. Can she get over it is a fair question. But it’s also a chance for her to show what she’s made of, to reveal the leader inside of her, to appear as totally rid of this very close relationship and learn how to manage the various currents inside the party,” said Messiha.

Once Le Pen has dealt with the direct challenges to her authority, it will be onto the question of just what her party is now proposing to the French people. Clearly, the euro issue will be downgraded as a priority. “When you look at what’s happening with Brexit, where the U.K. people voted and are now going to take years before they actually get out, we need to be realistic. We should not be telling the French people that we can leave immediately. It’s not a priority. What we will propose is control over our borders and a new relationship with the European Union,” said Rivière.

Edouard Ferrand, an MEP, went further on the EU. “We are not an anti-EU party. There are a lot of things to keep about the EU. So we will propose an alternative relationship with the European Union,” he said. Meanwhile, the Front will drill down on the two topics it sees Macron as neglecting: immigration and identity. “We’ll have a political line that’s adapted to the situation of France today. We need to adapt to the circumstances today. If you ask the French what are the main challenges facing the country, they tell you: immigration, Islamism, burkinis. You can make a program out of this question,” said Messiha.

Le Pen will also have to decide whether she maintains the National Front in its isolation, or tries to strike an alliance with another right-wing force. On Friday, Le Pen said she was ready to talk with Laurent Wauquiez, the conservative hard-liner who’s almost certain to become the next president of the conservative Républicains party in December. “Of course,” she said on BFMTV, when asked if she would speak to Wauquiez, who has so far refused to strike any deal with the Front. “But he doesn’t want to.” “I’ve always been for an alliance of the right,” former conservative MP Rivière said: “This is already happening at the local level, even if Wauquiez is stuck in his attitude of refusal. If he is honest, he will ask the party members if they want to have an exchange with the National Front, and respect their decision.”

Meanwhile, Le Pen and Philippot are competing for the affection of nationalist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who joined Le Pen’s campaign between the two rounds of the presidential election, only to break off their alliance weeks later. Both Le Pen and Philippot met Dupont-Aignan over the past 10 days. “Dupont-Aignan is a courageous person,” said Rivière. “He’s already well on his way to accepting a reconfiguration of the right. But it’s not going to happen overnight.” Then, Le Pen will turn to the next big challenges for her party: the municipal and European elections of 2019. Here, Ferrand said that the Front was preparing a major offensive against Macron’s liberal vision that would come complete with a “positive proposal” for European reform.

“Macron wants to reform the European Union, and is looking for a coalition. But he’s totally narcissistic on this question. He’s not finding any support for his proposals elsewhere in Europe. He’s basically there to save [European Commission President Jean-Claude] Juncker from collapse,” said Ferrand. “What we will put forward is a project that does not oppose the EU, but offers to reform it. For France, we think that Spain is a much more interesting economic model to follow than Germany.” Finally, there is the question of how to treat Philippot and his allies, who are ready to launch a group called the Patriots, likely to compete with the Front for votes. “The idea for now is to have a discussion group, a place where we can organize for the future. We are going to regroup, propose a political project for the French people. Everything is open,” said Philippe Murer, Le Pen’s former economic adviser who left to join Philippot in his new organization.
© Politico EU

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UK: Ukip heads off split as former army officer beats anti-Islam candidate to win leadership

29/9/2017- A little-known security expert backed by Nigel Farage has been elected leader of the UK Independence Party with a pledge to distance the party from its anti-Muslim rhetoric at the general election. Henry Bolton, who once stood for election for the Liberal Democrats, beat the two front-runners in the seven-way contest - controversial Sharia Watch director Anne Marie Waters and London Assembly member Peter Whittle - to win with 3,874 votes. Mr Bolton said the party had avoided becoming the "UK Nazi Party" with his election at the expense of a candidate who described Islam as "evil". His shock victory which was announced to 400 activists at the party's conference in Torquay avoided a potential split of the party, with a number of MEPs reportedly threatening to quit if Ms Waters had won.

Mr Bolton is the party's fourth leader in just over a year as the party has struggled to fill the void left by Mr Farage. Unlike other Ukip leaders he has never been paid by the European Union or elected as an MEP, although he was once paid by the Foreign Office to work in Brussels at the European Commission. He replaces Paul Nuttall who stepped down after a disastrous six months in charge saw the party slump from 3.9million votes in 2015 to fewer than 600,000 at the June election. Mr Farage said he was "delighted" Mr Bolton had won and pledged to help him with running the party. Mr Farage told The Daily Telegraph: "Is he a solid, sensible, decent, non-extreme human being? Absolutely. I voted for him and I will help him. Do I think tonight that Ukip has a chance? Absolutely." Mr Farage said it was "completely unfair" to suggest Mr Bolton was his "proxy", pointing out he had not endorsed any candidate before the result. He said: "He is a remarkable bloke. The argument is he is not famous - well I was not famous once. Does he have that magic for politics? None of us know."

Former Ukip donor Arron Banks, who has been at odds with the party for most of the year, also suggested that he might start to give money to the party again. Mr Bolton said he that like Mr Farage he enjoyed a "laugh and a joke" with a beer in the bar and would be speaking to the former leader in the coming days about what role he could play in the party. Mr Bolton said: "Nigel is Nigel and I'm not going to try and fill his boots, I have my own style, I have my own personality and I think you will see that emerge." Mr Bolton, 54, a former army officer and ex-policeman who won an award for outstanding bravery, said he wanted to stay as leader - a role which is currently not paid - for four years and would combine the job with running his security consultancy. He has three children, one aged 32 from his Danish first wife and two aged four and one from his Russian-born wife Tatiana Smurova-Bolton, 42. The couple hit headlines last year when Tatiana gave birth to their youngest daughter on a high-speed train from Ashford to London.

On policy, Mr Bolton said he would ditch Ukip's general election "integration agenda", which focused almost entirely on Muslims, declaring: "I absolutely abhor the rhetoric that says we are at war with Islam." He said as a former police officer there was "an issue" with face coverings but said focusing purely on banning the burka would not solve a security problem. Commenting on the transgender debate, he said: "I think we are getting a bit far when we are encouraging children in some cases to question their own sexuality, I think that is certainly going too far." Separately Ukip risked a legal row with the Premier League after it unveiled a new logo which incorporates a lion - known as "Flossie" - to replace the traditional pound sign. The Premier League declined to comment but was said to be consulting its lawyers.

Former footballer Gary Lineker then waded in suggesting it was a "rip-off" of the Premier League's logo. A Ukip spokesman hit back saying it did not infringe copyright, declaring: "We're not that stupid." The spokesman added: "Gary Lineker is a very well known, somewhat sanctimonious, extremely well paid TV celebrity who has his own opinions." Earlier at the conference, Michael Nazir-Ali, a former Bishop of Rochester, risked controversy by blaming the collapse in churchgoing in Britain on mothers who had stopped passing on their faith to their children at home. Mr Nazir-Ali told the activists: "The Christian faith stopped being of importance in this country when the women stopped passing it on in the home." Steve Crowther, the party's interim leader, also told supporters that people should be free to "black up" or dress up as nurses with balloons down their shirts and not risk prosecution by the police.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Two neo-Nazi groups added to banned list

Scottish Dawn and NS131, both aliases of neo-Nazi group National Action, are to be banned under UK terror law, the government has announced.

28/9/2017- National Action became the first far-right organisation to be banned in the UK last year. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she would not allow the "vile racist" group to "masquerade under different names". Being a member or inviting support for the organisations will be a criminal offence.

'Growing threat'
It will carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The order comes into effect on Friday. "By extending the proscription of National Action, we are halting the spread of a poisonous ideology and stopping its membership from growing - protecting those who could be at risk of radicalisation," Ms Rudd said. The move was welcomed by the head of UK counter-terrorism policing, Mark Rowley, who said it would help "disrupt and tackle the growing threat from the extreme right-wing". National Action's propaganda featured violent imagery including material suggesting that acts, including the murder of Jo Cox MP, should be emulated. Scottish Dawn has described itself as a "new Identitarian social movement formed from various organisations in 2017 to develop a coherent conception of Scottish identity and secure its place within Scottish politics". NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action) is "a platform dedicated to promoting and spreading NS street art and physical propaganda", according to its website.

On Wednesday, 11 men were arrested under anti-terror laws as part of a national investigation into National Action. All were suspected National Action members. Earlier this month, three men - including two British soldiers - were charged under anti-terror laws with being members of National Action. There are currently 71 organisations - 70 of them international - proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. A further 14 organisations in Northern Ireland were proscribed under previous legislation. Anyone with concerns about the activities of National Action, or any other type of extremist activity, is encouraged to contact the confidential hotline on 0800 789 321.
© BBC News.

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UK: Eleven men arrested on terror charges in neo-Nazi investigation

Men detained as part of investigation into banned National Action group as police search properties across England and Wales 

27/9/2017- Counter-terrorism detectives have arrested 11 suspected members of a banned neo-Nazi group amid fears of a possible plot to target individuals. Officers made the arrests across England and Wales in a series of co-ordinated raids as part of efforts to thwart National Action. A counter-terrorism chief said the neo-Nazi group was being treated as seriously as those committed to jihadist acts of terrorism. Five men were arrested for allegedly planning terrorist acts, which are understood to relate to “threats against individuals”, a source with knowledge of the investigation said. Counter-terrorism officers worked intensely to detain the 11 alleged neo-Nazis aged 22 to 35 in raids starting at 7am on Wednesday and stretching through to 11am. Police chiefs want to thwart efforts from extreme rightwing terrorists to bring further violence to Britain.

Six men from the north-west of England were detained, including a man aged 22 already in prison, as well as two men from south Wales, two men from west Yorkshire and one man from Wiltshire. All were arrested on suspicion of belonging to National Action. Of the 11, five were also arrested on suspicion of preparing a terrorist act. The senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, the deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu, said: “Counter-terrorism policing is committed to tackling all forms of extremism that threaten public safety and security. Investigations relating to alleged extreme rightwing activity are pursued with the same level or resource and vigour as other ideologies, in order to bring suspected offenders before the courts. “Today’s arrests, while resulting from two separate investigations, have been coordinated by our officers across a number of forces. This maximises operational effectiveness for police and minimises disruption for the local communities.”

Eleven properties were being searched as part of the investigation. National Action, an antisemitic, white supremacist group, was banned as a terrorist organisation by the home secretary, Amber Rudd, in December 2016. Police said the arrests followed activity this month by the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit, which resulted in three men, including two British soldiers, appearing in court accused of being members of National Action. It is understood that Wednesday’s arrests followed the result of inquiries identifying suspected members of National Action. Part of the investigation is examining whether any of those arrested on Wednesday were in contact with each other and if so, whether that was related to activities connected to National Action. The Ministry of Defence said none of those arrested on Wednesday was a member of the military.

DCS Martin Snowden, the head of counter-terrorism policing in north-east England, said: “Today’s arrests are part of coordinated action by the national counter-terrorism network and UK policing. Those who promote extreme rightwing views are looking to divide our communities and spread hatred. This will not be tolerated and those who do so must be brought to justice.”

The arrests include:
A 24-year-old man from Seaforth, a 23-year-old man from Newton-le-Willows and a 33-year-old man from Prescot, all three in Merseyside, and a 31-year-old man and a 35-year-old man both from Warrington, Cheshire, on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, funding terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.
A 22-year-old prisoner from Lancashire on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act and membership of a proscribed organisation.
A 28-year-old man from Swansea on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation and possession of terrorism material or documents.
A 23-year-old man from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, a 23-year-old man from Swansea, a 26-year-old man from Leeds and a 30-year-old man from Wiltshire on suspicion of membership of a proscribed organisation.

Last year, Rudd said National Action had no place in British society. “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,” she said. “It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone. I am clear that the safety and security of our families, communities and country comes first.” The group, which praised 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.
© The Guardian.

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UK: Cheshire Police record rise in racist and hate crimes

27/9/2017- In the past five years Cheshire Police has recorded a rise in reports of hate and racist crime with officers in Warrington dealing with more than 100 incidents in the first six months of 2017. Between January and June, the force dealt with 132 reports of hate crime in the town. Around 90 of these reports were believed to have been racially aggravated. This included arson, assault, criminal damage and harassment. In Cheshire, the number of racist crimes reported rose by more than 20 per cent in 2016 to 2017. A total of 660 racially or religiously aggravated incidents were recorded by Cheshire Police over the year – compared to 535 in 2015 to 2016, 530 in 2014 to 2015 and 526 in 2013 to 2014. The majority of these were incidents of racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress.

Police forces around the country posted a similar rise in hate crime levels following the EU referendum in June 2016, prompting charity Stop Hate UK to highlight Brexit’s ‘undeniable effect’ on hate crime across the country. But Cheshire Police is refusing to connect the spike to the divisive referendum – suggesting instead that the figures could represent increased confidence in police forces, increased awareness of hate crimes and online reporting. DCC Janette McCormick said: “Any form of hate crime is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in Cheshire. “We want people to feel safe and feel they can go about their business, no matter who they are, without fear of violence or threat. “It is recognised nationally that hate crime is under reported, so it is encouraging to see that more people in Cheshire are coming forward each year to report it. “We want people to be confident in coming forward if they are a victim of hate crime and feel reassured that we will do everything we can in supporting them through the process.”
© The Warrington Guardian

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Majority British people want to racially profile Muslims and Arabs

Survey shows stark differences between opinions held by Leave and Remain voters

26/9/2017- More than half of British people would support the racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs for security reasons, a survey has revealed. The “UK attitudes toward the Arab world” poll showed stark differences between the views held by Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters, and those on opposing sides of the Brexit debate. Almost 80 per cent of Leave voters, for example, believed the Arabs who migrated to the UK “have failed to integrate in Western societies and live in isolated communities”, but only 45 per cent of Remain voters felt the same, bringing the average down to 63 per cent. Around two thirds of pro-EU respondents said Britain should welcome more refugees from Syria and Iraq, but 91 per cent of Brexiteers thought the UK should take in fewer people fleeing the conflicts. Overall, only 28 per cent thought migrants and refugees from the Arab world were beneficial to Britain.

When respondents were asked if they would support racial profiling against Arabs or Muslims for security reasons, 55 per cent agreed and 24 per cent disagreed overall. But when split by how respondents voted in this year’s general election, 72 per cent of Conservative voters supported the suggestion, followed by 40 per cent Labour and 40 Liberal Democrat. But almost three quarters believed that Islamophobia was worsening in the UK and that statements by politicians, commentators and public figures were increasing the risk of hate crime. More than 2,100 people were surveyed by YouGov in the weighted poll for Arab News in conjunction with the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu). Chris Doyle, the director of Caabu, said racial profiling would not be the “right cure” for the continued terror threat against the UK following four Isis-linked terror attacks this year.

“It is clear that lot of people are fearful and concerned about security in the aftermath of attacks in Britain,” he told The Independent. “A lot more needs to be done looking at how racial profiling would not make people more secure and could have a very detrimental effect and cause a lot of antagonistic feeling. “The result reinforces other findings on the attitudes to refugees, immigrants and Islamophobia.” More than half of respondents associated Arab culture with strict gender roles and Islam, with a quarter linking it with extremism and 14 per cent with violence, while statements like “innovative” and “forward thinking” were on 1 per cent. Most respondents said they felt British foreign policy in the region had been ineffective at upholding human rights and promoting global security, while 83 per cent believe Britain was wrong to go to war in Iraq in 2003 and 53 per cent support continued military involvement against Isis.

Despite giving opinions on wide-ranging subjects including the status of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, more than half of respondents admitted having “limited knowledge” of the Arab world and another 25 per cent said they “don’t know anything” about the region. Most people said they would not travel to the region and a large proportion of respondents also wrongly identified countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and Turkey among those being considered for the survey’s purposes. Mr Doyle said it was concerning that the vast majority of people said they knew nothing about the Middle East when understanding is needed “more than ever”. “Levels of ignorance provide the base for increasing hostility,” he added. “If we’re going to be a truly global Britain, that is going to impact very negatively - we need to embrace the outside world.”

Mr Doyle pointed to “stereotypes” revealed by the survey, including the perception that all Arab nations are wealthy and less than 1 in 100 people linking Christianity to the region. He urged politicians to avoid “dehumanising” language when discussing immigration and refugees, adding that changes to the UK’s “Eurocentric” education system could increase understanding, alongside more positive media coverage of the Middle East. Faisal J Abbas, the editor of Arab News, said: “The poll results strongly suggest that the UK public is dissatisfied with British diplomatic intervention in the Arab world, but that Brits also lack knowledge about some of the complexities of the region."
© The Independent

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UK: How smearing a student's reputation was irresistible for the media

Many news organisations published Robbie Travers’ claims to have been victim of a PC stitch-up. If only they had dug a little deeper into the murky racial politics behind the story By Nick Cohen

25/9/2017- On 12 May, Robbie Travers sent Esme Allman, a fellow student at Edinburgh University, a Facebook message. “Hey Esme, just to let you know multiple news agencies have been delivered [sic] your comments on calling black men trash. You might want to think about saying that in future, some have been linked it [sic] to neo-Nazism.” The ill-crafted words were at best half-truths and at worst outright lies. But there was a nugget of fact beneath them, which Travers could melt and remould. Allman had indeed said “trash”. But the context, which Travers did not mention, could not have been further from neo-Nazism. Allman was in a Facebook group for black and ethnic minority students at Edinburgh. Its members talked about the abuse Serena Williams received when she announced she had fallen in love with a white man. Black men who insulted a black woman for marrying the love of her life were “trash”, Allman declared. Harsh words, but understandable in the circumstances. Whatever their colour, trolls are trash, after all.

Travers appeared to have been monitoring Allman like a secret policeman looking for a dirty secret. And – Eureka! – he had found it. Or rather he had found an unexceptional opinion he could twist to make a black woman look like the very racists she opposes. He announced to his thousands of Facebook followers: “I will be unveiling a racist elected to the anti-racist post at Edinburgh University.” In view of what was to happen next, it is worth noting that Travers was the prig. He was trying to punish Allman for her words and thoughts, not the other way round. Allman thought he was harassing her and reported him to Edinburgh University for allegedly breaking its code of conduct (he was eventually cleared of this charge). So what? Student politics is so vicious because it matters so little, as the cynical wisdom has it. Two students were shouting at each other on Facebook. Who cares?

About half the news organisations in Britain was the answer. If Travers’ claim that “multiple news agencies have been delivered” twisted extracts of Allman’s conversation about Serena Williams were true, none of the media rose to the bait. But, earlier this month, Travers gave multiple news agencies a story that was much more to their liking. The Mail, the Sun, Trump’s propaganda network Fox News, Putin’s propaganda network Russia Today, the Express, the Times, which broke the “story”, and the far-right US sites Infowars and Breitbart assured their gullible readers that Travers was the victim of the latest politically correct insanity. It wasn’t just the rightwing press. The Independent, the Mirror, and papers across Europe loved the story. They repeated every word of Travers’ new allegation that Allman had accused him of Islamophobia for “mocking Islamic State on Facebook”. There was no mention of Serena Williams. Travers was no longer the creepy censor trying to make others suffer. He was now the victim of political correctness gone, well, mad.

Edinburgh University’s bureaucrats were going along with the witch-hunt and investigating him for making Muslim and minority students feel “unsafe”, Travers continued. But Robbie would not be intimidated. His cherubic face and flowing locks complemented the heroic image he was so keen to project. Imagine. Even Isis can’t be criticised now. A black student and a “self-proclaimed feminist” to boot was supporting barbarism and trying to turn its critics into hate criminals. Every rightwing suspicion was confirmed with suspicious ease. In a revealing interview recorded for the Sunday Times, Rod Liddle told Travers: “If it wasn’t for insanities like this, I wouldn’t have a job, so thank you.” Just so. And it’s not only rightwing journalists who are grateful. With headcounts hacked back and finances in free fall, many news organisations don’t have the resources to check a story. When it so neatly tells their readers what they want to hear, the seductive question arises: do we want to check at all? 

Allman told me she never mentioned Isis and the transcript of her complaint bears this out. The university covered its back by saying it wouldn’t “consider bringing charges of misconduct against any student for mocking Isis”. But it left Allman in the lurch. It told her not to talk to journalists, but refused to tell reporters what the dispute was about. Crucially, it would not confirm or deny that she had mentioned Isis. I spoke to Ronald Kerr, one of Edinburgh University’s extraordinarily large number of press officers, last week. He didn’t know the detail of what had happened and would not find out either. A student’s name has been smeared on two continents but putting the record straight was no concern of his or his university.

Allman has broken her silence now, and given an interview to Edinburgh’s student newspaper. JK Rowling performed a public service by tweeting a link. But it remains the case that for the rest of her life any employer Googling Allman’s name will see dozens of news organisations suggesting that she was a fellow traveller with Isis. They will have to search very hard to find her side of the story. Terry Pratchett once wrote that a lie could run round the world before the truth had got its boots on. Now lies are like decrepit satellites that circle the Earth for ever. The dozens of news sites that spread the fake news about him could not have been expected to know Travers’ reputation. But any journalist making the most cursory of checks would have noticed that his website bears the vainglorious title: The Office of Robbie Travers. As well as saying he is an authority on global politics, the law and just about everything else, Travers claims to be the media manager for the Human Security Centre, an influential foreign policy thinktank. As no one else had bothered to phone, I gave it a call.

“We let him go many months ago,” a senior figure told me. “He was a complete liability. He was never the media manager. He was just junior comms staff, who ran our Twitter account very badly. He’s one of the most bizarre people I’ve ever encountered. Strange so many otherwise smart people still support him.” Except and alas, it’s not remotely strange to anyone who looks at how partisan newspapers and new media websites work. Liddle had it right. If they started to doubt men such as Travers, they would be out of a job.
Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist
© Comment is free - Guardian

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UK: Children called 'terrorists' and attacked in Chorlton Water Park

The two boys and a girl were targeted as they played at the beauty spot on Saturday

25/9/2017- A young boy was called a ‘terrorist’ and beaten up by a group of other children as he played in a park with his cousins. The two boys and a girl were targeted as they played in Chorlton Water Park on Saturday afternoon. The mother of one of the youngsters, Iqbal Yasin, has spoken of her shock after her son was punched and kicked as he tried to defend himself against the three boys. Police investigating the incident say it is being treated as a hate crime. Attia’s 10-year-old son had gone to stay with his cousins in Chorlton on Saturday as a treat for taking his 11-plus exam. Yasin and his cousins were on the play area at the back of the water park when another group of children started hurling racist insults at them. The youngsters were reportedly labelled ‘terrorists’ among horrific slurs by the children. One of the boys challenged Yasin to a fight. When he refused, he was pulled from one of the playground rides.

His mum said her son tried to defend himself, but was punched in the face and head. It was only when a passer-by intervened the young attacker stopped, Yasin’s mum said. Attia, from Firswood, said: “Yasin has some bruises, but it is mainly the emotional impact I am worried about. “When I found out my emotions were all over the place. I was shocked, I was raging yet at the same time I felt like crying. “I went straight around my sister-in-law’s house to pick him up. I put my son in the car and then I drove around the estate to find the boys. “We didn’t spot any of them and it has now been reported to the police.”

Attia, a mum-of-five, admitted she has struggled to explain the other children’s actions to her son. “I am just shocked that another child of a similar age have such violence and hatred inside him,” she added. “They are children themselves, where did they get that from? “If children have questions about Muslims, they should openly ask. I tried to keep children away from the news because there is so much violence and hatred in the world. “Then my son goes to the park and this happens.” Greater Manchester Police confirmed they were investigating the incident. A spokesman said: “This has been reported to us and is being investigated. It is being treated as a hate crime.”
© The Manchester Evening News.

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UK: Surgeon stabbed on way to mosque

A doctor has been stabbed in the back of the neck on his way to a mosque in Greater Manchester, in a suspected hate crime.

25/9/2017- Consultant surgeon Dr Nasser Kurdy was attacked outside the Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association at about 17:50 BST and was taken to hospital. He has since been discharged and a 54-year-old man and a 32-year-old who were arrested are being questioned. Greater Manchester Police have asked for any witnesses to come forward. Dr Kurdy heard Islamophobic comments at the time of the attack, community sources said. Police said the 58-year-old was on his way to the mosque, where he is the vice-chairman and has led prayers, when he saw another man across the road. "A short time later he felt an injury to the back of his neck. He ran into the centre and then called emergency services." Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said it was a "nasty and unprovoked attack" to a "much-loved" man.

'Abusive comments'
Dr Khalid Anis, a spokesman for the mosque, said: "It could have been very, very serious. "He [Dr Kurdy] said he noticed someone cross the road and then somebody just attacked him from behind. "Obviously he was in shock at the time, he had just been stabbed, so the detail of those comments I don't know - but there were definitely abusive comments made by the attackers at the door of the mosque. "We understand it was a knife, he is very lucky. "It's a very unified town so for this to happen like this in the street, it is frightening." Dr Anis added that Dr Kurdy is "in good spirits". Akram Malik, chairman of the Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association, added: "It is devastating that someone has chosen to attack a community member, on his way to prayer. "We pray that Dr Kurdy makes a full recovery and the perpetrator faces the full force of justice."

'Motivated by hate'
Iftikhar Awan, who attends the mosque with his wife and children, said the community was "in a state of shock". He added that Dr Kurdy was treated in Wythenshawe Hospital, where he works as an orthopaedic surgeon. Det Insp Ben Cottam said Dr Kurdy was attacked "in broad daylight". ACC Jackson added: "People will want to know why the attacker did this and we are treating this as a crime motivated by hate. "It is difficult to say more than this at this time but there is nothing to suggest that this is terrorist related." He said there would be an increased police presence in the areas to "reassure local people". The Muslim Council of Britain said it was shocked by the attack and urged the government to implement its "hate crime action plan".
© BBC News.

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UK: Farage 'to form new party' if anti-Islam campaigner Waters wins Ukip leadership

Former leader believes the party is 'finished' if it becomes single-issue under Ms Waters.

24/9/2017- Nigel Farage is planning to launch a new, pro-Brexit party if the anti-Islam campaigner Anne-Marie Waters wins the Ukip leadership election next week, sources have claimed. According to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Farage has told friends he will set up the breakaway party because he believes Ukip will be “finished” if Ms Waters takes charge. The proposed new party is not yet believed to have a name but talks are reportedly under way with Ukip’s former chief donor Aaron Banks. Now the bookies’ favourite to become Ukip’s fourth leader in the last year, Ms Waters is a director of pressure groups Sharia Watch and Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. Both are widely described as anti-Islam organisations, although Ms Waters insists it is not factually correct to label her as a "far right" candidate.

Ukip has seen its support fall away since the vote to leave the EU in June 2016. In the wake of this watershed moment, Ukip was largely seen as a party without a purpose, riven with infighting. Speaking this weekend, Mr Banks said: “If Ms Walters becomes Ukip leader, all we ask is that she gives the party a decent burial. “The country needs an effective political movement to stop May from selling out on the Brexit which British people voted for last year.” Former Ukip leader Mr Farage – still regarded as the heart and soul of the party for many – is said to have booked a room in Strasbourg for next Monday, where he could launch his new party. There was speculation Mr Banks would form a new party with his close ally Mr Farage when he announced he had been suspended by Ukip in March this year.

Mr Banks said: “Ukip started the ball rolling, but the world has moved on. "With its remorseless infighting, and absence of a clearly defined mission, it is not fit to spearhead a great national movement in its current form. It’s too traditional. "Structurally, it is a mess, held together by rubber bands and by the extraordinary stamina of one man, Nigel Farage. It is clear that something new is required.” The proposed new party would be likely to target pro-Leave voters from both the Tories and Labour by providing a more radical vision for Brexit than either party is currently seen to offer. Almost of all the party’s 19 other MEPs would be likely to join Mr Farage in a new party if Ms Water’s wins, with many expressing concerns the party could become a single-issue anti-immigration party under her leadership. Some of the party's MEPs are still hoping Mr Farage will come back into the fold rather than start a new movement, with MEP Jane Collins saying on Twitter she would "immediately" stand aside in the leadership contest if he were to make another comeback.

Ms Waters has claimed “millions” of Britons agree with her view that Islam is “evil” and are worried about the creeping “islamification” of the UK. Mr Farage has constantly criticised Prime Minister Theresa May since she came to power, accusing her of not having a clear vision for Brexit and of delaying the process through her desire for a transition period, which he believes is an attempt to keep the UK in the EU “by the back door”. He was succeeded as Ukip leader by Diane James, who lasted just 18 days before she quit saying she did not have the backing of key figures in the party. Paul Nutall then took over following a bitter battle, but lasted just six months following a disastrous performance at this year’s general election when the party’s share of the vote tumbled from almost 13 per cent in 2015 to less than two per cent. The result of the Ukip leadership contest will be announced at the party’s conference next Friday, with former London mayoral contender Peter Whittle the second favourite behind Ms Waters. Mr Farage was not immediately available for comment.
© The Independent

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UK: Far-right EDL abandons its Essex march when nobody shows up

Anti-fascists say EDL supporters were vastly outnumbered by opponents who took part in counter march.

23/9/2017- A far right group cancelled a planned march in Chelmsford, Essex, after only a handful of people showed up at the event, according to reports. The English Defence League (EDL) scrapped its march, due to take place between 1 and 3pm, because between two and four people attended. The group had organised the event to highlight "the rise in child grooming in our region, the rise of female genital mutilation and the arrests of terror suspects in the area," according to its official Facebook page. At least 16 people said they were going to the event, according to the page, while a total of 43 had expressed interest. Dozens of people did attend an anti-EDL march organised in the area by groups including Essex Unite Against Fascism and Chelmsford Throws Out Fascism.

An activist from Stand Up To Racism, which campaigns against far right groups, said the EDL would not be tolerated in the city. "Only two to four of them turned up," he told The Independent. "They scuttled of home, they wouldn't march because they were vastly outnumbered by the opposition. People from Chelmsford will not tolerate fascists in their midst trying to divide our communities." "It shows that the EDL is pretty much a spent force," said an anti-fascist, who spoke to the Metro on the condition of anonymity. "Not that we should rest on our laurels because there is a rise of the far right and white supremacy across the world. We can be happy that the EDL failed but we must stay on our guard."

In June, at least 14 people were arrested as EDL supporters and anti-fascists clashed during a march in London. Before the march, London's Metropolitan Police had issued a warning to both sets of protesters to demonstrate peacefully or face arrest.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer may have found a permanent home in Iceland

The racist site has been at a .is domain for more than a week.

23/9/2017- For the last six weeks, the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer has struggled to find a permanent domain name. The site lost its original .com address last month after site editor Andrew Anglin wrote a post mocking Heather Heyer, victim of the deadly hit-and-run attack in Charlottesville. The site bounced around from domain to domain, with each registrar canceling the site's service within a few hours or days of registration. But for the last week, the site has been available at an address at Iceland's .is domain. ISNIC, Iceland's domain authority, is pondering how to handle the situation. “What we worry about is the reputation of the .is domain,” ISNIC CEO Jens Pétur Jensen told the Reykjavik Grapevine. “ISNIC does not want to have the reputation that we’re a safe haven for criminals.” “We are writing to the National Police,” ISNIC CEO Jens Pétur Jensen told the Reykjavik Grapevine. “We are asking them if or how we should respond and asking them for guidance.”

Iceland has hate speech law that (as translated by the Grapevine) prohibits “dissemination of speech that in ‘a ridiculing, slanderous, insulting, threatening, or any other manner’ targets an individual or groups based, amongst other things, on their race or religion.” Iceland's national domain registrar is known for its permissive domain registration rules. When the group closed down two .is domains linked to ISIS in 2014, it was the first time Iceland's domain authority had canceled domains based on site content, according to the Grapevine. The file-sharing site the Pirate Bay was briefly hosted at a .is domain in 2013 before fleeing to the Caribbean out of fear it would be seized by Swedish courts. 

ISNIC is also pondering whether it can shut down The Daily Stormer’s domain on a technicality. ISNIC’s rules require customers to provide accurate and complete contact information, and the registrar says it needs more documentation from Anglin to verify his identity. But as The Daily Beast reports, Anglin might be unwilling or unable to supply the necessary documentation: “The white supremacist is currently AWOL in the US while fleeing a lawsuit,” the Beast reports. “Tanya Gersh, the Jewish real estate agent whose address Anglin posted on The Daily Stormer, has been attempting to sue Anglin for five months over what she describes as his ‘terror campaign.’” Anglin says he lives in Nigeria now, but there are reasons to doubt that claim. If Anglin were to provide accurate contact information to ISNIC, Gersh's lawyers could track him down to serve him with papers.
© ARS Technica

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Montenegro: Gay Pride Parade Held In Capital

23/9/2017- Some 200 people attended an LGBT pride parade in Montenegro on September 23 calling for more rights and tougher punishment for violent acts against gay people in the small Balkan nation. Participants in the fifth annual Podgorica Pride event marched down the streets of the capital, Podgorica, holding banners with slogans such as "Proud my son is gay" and "My daughter is a lesbian." Police sealed off the area for protection. No incidents were reported during the event, dubbed "With chivalry against violence" in a reference to Montenegro's proclaimed heroic tradition. An organizer of the event, Danijel Kalezic, says LGBT rights activists want harsher penalties for antigay attacks that he says currently are treated as "ordinary fistfights." Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic of 620,000 people and NATO's newest member, needs to improve human rights as it seeks membership in the European Union.
© RFE/RL

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Greece: Poll puts conservatives ahead of ruling SYRIZA by 14 points

23/9/2017- Conservative New Democracy’s lead over ruling SYRIZA has expanded to 14 points, according to the first opinion poll published since the Greece’s main political rivals appeared at the Thessaloniki International Fair earlier this month. According to the Metron Analysis survey, conducted for Ta Nea newspaper’s weekend edition, Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s conservatives would get 36.7 percent of the vote if elections were held now, versus 22.7 percent for Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing SYRIZA. An 8.8 percent of respondents said they would vote for Democratic Alignment (leadership elections for a new center-left party will be held in November). Support for neo-Nazi Golden Dawn was at 7.3 percent, slightly ahead of the Greek Communist Party’s (KKE) 7.1 percent. The Union of Centrists was on 3.4 percent, while coalition partners Independent Greeks (ANEL), the To Potami centrists and the anti-bailout Sailing for Freedom and Popular Union would not get enough votes to enter Parliament. The survey found that Mitsotakis is considered the most suitable candidate for prime minister by 25 percent of respondents against 13 percent who endorsed Tsipras – 43 percent said neither.
© The Kathimerini.

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Ireland: Dublin private school suspends two boys for racist abuse and violent threats

23/9/2017- Two first-year students at a private Dublin secondary school have been suspended after making death threats and racist comments to a black classmate, TheJournal.ie has learned. The three boys were part of a Whatsapp group which was created when they all began their classes earlier this month. One of the children then started receiving abuse on the messaging app by two boys in his class. What started out as mocking then turned into more violent and racist exchanges. In messages seen by TheJournal.ie, the boy, who is 12 years old, is referred to as a “fucking n****r”. They then threaten to attack the boy. His parents noticed that their child was acting differently and discovered the racist slurs and violent threat on his phone. After speaking with the principal of the school, it was decided to suspend the two boys who are believed to have sent the messages and the board of management is now deciding whether or not to expel them.

The school has been contacted for comment yesterday but TheJournal.ie received no correspondence from the school by time of publication. A complaint has yet to be filed to gardaí relating to the incident. However, it is understood that the parents of the child have consulted solicitors on the matter. Alex Cooney, chief executive of CyberSafeIreland, warned parents to be vigilant about online safety and said that incidents of bullying and threats are “sadly too common”. “There are a lot of incidents that we deal with. But advice for parents is to have regular and open conversations with your children about what they’re doing online. Make it normal to have that conversation. “Parents should set up clear ground rules on when and where they’re using their smartphones. “Don’t let them disappear into their rooms with their phones. If they’re in the living room or kitchen or wherever, you can throw your eye over.”
© The Journal Ireland

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Headlines 22 September, 2017

Sweden: Police admit they failed to act on tip-off about neo-Nazi march in Gothenburg

Swedish police have confirmed they received an anonymous tip-off warning that a neo-Nazi group was planning to march through Gothenburg two days before it took place, but failed to act on the information.

19/9/2017- Newspaper ETC reported on Monday that the anonymous tip-off was not passed on to the police operations department after it was received through e-mail on Friday – two days before the much-criticized Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) demonstration took place in central Gothenburg without an official permit. The head of the police contact centre in western Sweden Daniel Norlander confirmed that report, telling newspaper GT "we have failed in our routines". Gothenburg police chief Erik Nord insisted it was still correct not to intervene in the march, but did note that if more time for forward planning was allowed then a greater number of staff could have been called in. “If we had known that it was going to happen there would have been considerably more personnel at the scene. Then we would probably have been able to direct how we would act a little bit,” he told GT.

Police and a helicopter were dispatched to observe the march after witnesses called them upon seeing it in central Gothenburg on Sunday. It walked from the Liseberg amusement park, through Avenyn to Gustaf Adolf’s square carrying banners with Nazi symbols and shouting extremist messages, including slogans referring to Swedish police chiefs as "traitors of the people". Police chief Nord as well as some of his colleagues and experts have defended it being allowed to take place however, arguing Sweden's freedom of speech laws protect protests without permits. On the NMR’s podcast the group's leader said Sunday's march was a test of the police capacity to intervene. They also mocked the police for not knowing about the demonstration in advance.

NMR has announced plans to stage a march near a synagogue in Gothenburg on the holy Jewish holiday Yom Kippur later in September. Sweden’s main organization for Jews is appealing the police decision to allow the demonstration to take place. The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semite doctrine, and its growing popularity in Sweden has caused concern in neighbouring Norway.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Police defend decision to let neo-Nazis march through Gothenburg

Swedish police have hit back at criticism after a neo-Nazi group was allowed to march through the streets of central Gothenburg despite not having an official permit to demonstrate.

18/9/2017- An estimated 50 people participated in Sunday's march through Sweden's second-largest city, many waving Nordic Resistance Movement (Nordiska motståndsrörelsen, NMR) flags. The demonstration had not been reported to the police beforehand and did not have an obligatory permit. Police and a helicopter were dispatched to observe the demonstration after witnesses called police upon seeing the group march through central Gothenburg. The group was seen walking from the Liseberg leisure park via main street Avenyn to Gustaf Adolf's square, carrying banners with Nazi symbols and shouting various extremist messages, including slogans referring to Swedish police chiefs as "traitors of the people".

Gothenburg police received widespread criticism for not intervening to stop the march, with Centre Party leader Annie Lööf among several who took to social media to ask why not. "Absolutely incomprehensible that they are allowed to demonstrate even without a permit. Enough now," she wrote on Twitter. But Gothenburg police chief Erik Nord, along with several of his colleagues and experts, defended the decision, arguing that Sweden's freedom of speech laws also protect protests without permits. "Even if you do not have permission to demonstrate, the demonstration has in principle the same protection value as a demonstration that has been granted permission. It is a public gathering and should be allowed to take place if it is possible," he told regional newspaper GP.

In a letter sent to Gothenburg councillors, he explained that the only people who may be guilty of a criminal offence in such a situation are the organizers, adding that police have filed a report about a public order offence, "but I am sure you understand it may be difficult to find the person who organized it". Nord also said in his letter that he had not yet seen any evidence the protesters could be guilty of hate crimes, such as agitation against an ethnic group, which critics had argued. NMR has announced plans to stage a march near a synagogue in Gothenburg on the holy Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Sweden's main organization for Jews is appealing the police decision to allow the September 30th demonstration to go on as planned. 

In early July, the extremist group disrupted Sweden's Almedalen political forum a week after organizers decided to allow them to participate in the event. A few week later, a man wearing a t-shirt that read "Revolution: Support the Nordic Resistance Movement" walked on to the court during the Swedish Open tennis match between David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco, yelled Nazi slogans and raised his arm in a Nazi-like salute. On that same day, scuffles broke out in Oskarshamn after NMR began handing out flyers in the centre of the town. The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and its growing popularity in Sweden has caused concern in neighbouring Norway.
© The Local - Sweden

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Bosnian Serb Soldier ‘Shot at Roma Villagers in Prijedor’

A prosecution witness at the trial of former Bosnian Serb soldier Boro Milojica said he watched the defendant open fire at around ten Roma civilians in the village of Volarici in 1992.

18/9/2017- A protected prosecution witness codenamed S-3 told the state court in Sarajevo on Monday that he saw Boro Milojica, who is on trial over the killings of Bosniak, Croat and Roma civilians, open fire at the Roma villagers in Volarici. The witness said he was recruited by the Sixth Ljubija Battalion with the 43rd Prijedor Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army was travelling from the village of Miska Glava towards the village of Hambarine, both near Prijedor, in a small truck with the defendant Milojica and another man, Pero Djuric. “In the village of Volarici, we came across a group of people who were digging something. I recognised a Roma man who had participated in a voluntary work action with me,” S-3 recalled. “When I approached him in order to greet him, I heard gunshots. Men began falling down,” he said.

He testified that he saw Djuric and Milojica shoot at the Roma men and said he asked them: “What are you doing, guys?” But the two of them just shrugged their shoulders, and did not discuss the incident later on, he said. The witness admitted that he did not report it to anyone. “I found out later on that they were Roma people from the village of Volarici… There were around ten of them, I do not know exactly,” S-3 said. He also said he saw other corpses near the people at whom Djuric and Milojica were shooting. Responding to a question posed by Milojica’s defence, the witness said that he too had an automatic rifle, but did not shoot. He said the three of them “had consumed alcohol, but were not drunk”. Milojica and Zelislav Rivic, both former members of the Sixth Ljubija Battalion with the 43rd Prijedor Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, are on trial for killing 19 Bosniak, Croat and Roma civilians in June and July 1992. The trial will continue on October 2.
© Balkan Insight

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Islamophobia witnessed every day in Europe, NGOs tell OSCE

Several Europe-based Islamic NGOs have claimed that Muslims, particularly women, in Europe are becoming the victims of a rising number of Islamophobic attacks and religion-based discrimination as arbitrary state policies fuel further hatred

18/9/2017- Held in the Polish capital Warsaw, this year's Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) assigned several sessions to Islamophobia and the discrimination against Muslims in Europe. A number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from European countries, including Germany, France, Belgium and Austria, attended the sessions and explained the situation they are facing. While the OSCE regarded the issue as a problem, representatives of far-right groups were also given the floor to express their anti-Islam and anti-Muslim ideas. As members of the Muslim community provided their accounts of discrimination as well as physical and rhetorical attacks, people from far-right groups attacked the core values of Islam and accused Muslims of violating rules and not adapting to European values.

They brought back old arguments; namely, saying that Islam and the West were incompatible while demonstrating their hatred openly. Despite explicit defamations, their statements were allowed, in line with the freedom of speech. Even at the OSCE meeting, it was made clear that Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe. Several reports have even indicated that hatred towards Muslims has seemingly become a part of daily life on the continent. A report by the Collectif Contre l'Islamophobie en France (CCIF) claimed that Islamophobic attacks have increased by 500 percent in France in the last two years while the Bertelsmann Foundation's findings indicated that 57 percent of Germans consider Muslims to be a threat.

The representatives of NGOs claimed that the rhetoric adopted by the media as well as politicians is fueling further hatred, as Muslims face a collective punishment after each and every terror attack. An imam at the Finsbury Park Mosque, Mohammad Mahmoud, said in one of the sessions that their community is facing threats and hate speech. "We have seen severed pig heads thrown at our mosque and racist writings on the walls. Women, in particular, are afraid to walk in the streets alone. They can't even take their children to school," he said. "Our mosque has also been the target of arson and car-ramming attacks, resulting in the death of one person." Condemning racism in all forms, the imam said that members of his congregation only want to live in harmony with the rest of the community.

Nadia Omani, a member of the Coordination against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI), said that women are the victims in almost 90 percent of all Islamophobic attacks and added that Muslim women wearing hijab find it nearly impossible to gain employment. Meanwhile, Elif ªimºek from the Ankara-based Migration Research Foundation said: "According to Bertelsmann's surveys, 61 percent of Germans believe that Islam is not compatible with the West, while in France, the headscarf is seen as being against the Vivre-ensemble according to some 79 percent of the population." "A Pew Research Center report from September 2016 linked negative perspectives about refugees with the fact that diversity in European societies is no longer welcome. The report found that only four out of every 10 respondents who took part in the survey thought that their countries were more 'livable' with the inclusion of various identities and ethnicities," she added.

Quoting London-based Chatham House's report, ªimºek said, "Only 25 percent of Europeans believe migration can make positive contributions to their countries." It was noteworthy that the speakers pointed out that Muslim communities in Europe also suffer as a result of arbitrary state policies. For instance, a ban on the full-face veil is regarded as a success for Western society and oppressive for Muslims. European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO) spokesperson Veysel Filiz said that Islamophobia is being trivialized by the major players involved, criticizing the OSCE for allowing the far-right and anti-Islamists to claim that some of the NGOs present at the Warsaw sessions were followed by Anders Breivik, who massacred 69 teenagers in a summer camp in 2011 in Norway.

Filiz said that he believes the OSCE must be reorganized in order to monitor the rise of far-right groups. He said some European countries do not want to accept the fact that Islamophobia exists, as they are not interested in the rights of Muslims and hold imperial and sectarian motivations. "If the current peaceful atmosphere in Europe fails, the biggest victims will be the Muslims," he said.
© The Daily Sabah

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England manager Mark Sampson says racism allegations are taking a toll

18/9/2017- Mark Sampson has admitted the latest allegations of racism against him have taken an emotional toll, with scrutiny of his tenure intensifying as England prepare to begin their World Cup qualification campaign. The women’s team manager bristled as he was questioned for the first time since the Guardian revealed Drew Spence had contacted the Football Association to claim he had made a racial remark towards her. Sampson once again asserted his innocence and said he believed the investigation into claims of racism and bullying first made by Eni Aluko had been thorough. That is despite knowledge the original investigation, led by barrister Katharine Newton, failed to speak to many of the protagonists, including Spence.

The Chelsea player, who is mixed race, gave a written statement to Newton last week saying she was left offended by Sampson asking her how many times she had been arrested. The original investigation by Newton cleared the Welshman of any wrongdoing but also failed to speak to any of the other players present when it was claimed he made the remarks to Spence. “I was aware of the allegations and I’ve responded to them,” Sampson said. “My stance on those allegations is still exactly the same. From my experience of the investigation it was very thorough and that’s all I can say. That process was the process and any questions on it are for the FA. I’m an employee of the organisation.”

England play Russia at Tranmere’s Prenton Park on Tuesday evening, the first obstacle on the road to France 2019. The squad have spent 10 days preparing but mounting allegations of discrimination and bullying against the 34-year-old Sampson have overshadowed their first game since they exited Euro 2017 in the semi-finals. “I think if anyone put themselves in my position they would feel in a very difficult position, emotionally,” Sampson said. “But I’ve been fully aware we’ve got a big game, against the second seeded team in this group. I’ve worked incredibly hard to prepare these players and the players have done the same. Their work rate, their professionalism has been incredible and they’re prepared for a tough game.” A tricky encounter, undoubtedly, but Sampson is aware that, for him, much more potentially damaging fixtures are looming. The first is on 17 October when government’s culture, media and sport select committee is expected to summon senior FA executives to explain seemingly gaping holes in the initial investigation.

The MPs could also renew calls for a fresh investigation led by someone other than Newton. Sampson was visibly frustrated with sustained questions about his future but insisted he still had the full support of the England squad. “It’s never been in doubt in my mind that I had the backing of the players both publicly and privately and the backing of the staff,” he said. “That’s fundamentally what’s crucially important to me. The people I’m working with, the people who know who I am, my character, understand and express their views.” Sampson insists he dropped Aluko from his squad for performance reasons and not because of any enmity. Jodie Taylor is one player who arguably benefited from Aluko being relegated to the bench at the World Cup in Canada in 2015. She was fast-tracked back from injury, took Aluko’s place up front and has continued to excel, winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2017.

Unprompted, she sprung to Sampson’s defence and insisted the controversy had brought the squad closer together. “I cannot comment on the investigation because I have no idea,” she said. “It is purely what we see in the media. But it is tough on Mark, it is tough on the FA and it is tough on the players. “If anything it has brought the team closer together. Even under Mark it took me 12 months to get a starting spot but I still have so many positive things to say, because he really has improved my game and it shows how far hard work and effort and good attitude gets you.”
© The Guardian.

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Shattering Ugly Roma Stereotypes (Editorial)

22/9/2017- Historically shunned and disparaged, targeted for liquidation by the Nazis during World War II, Europe’s 12 million Roma, sometimes called Gypsies, still suffer from social exclusion, poor education, high unemployment and poverty. The ugly stereotypes used to stigmatize them as socially backward have proved tenacious, yet there are places in Europe where people are finding ways to end this historical ugliness. As Rick Lyman reported in The Times this month, the village of Spissky Hrhov in Slovakia is showing what can be done. Two decades ago, jobs were drying up and the population shrinking, leaving a higher percentage of Roma. The village decided to embrace its Roma residents and created community companies to employ them and helped them build decent homes. At that time, Spissky Hrhov’s Roma were living in shacks, and many of their children were sent to separate schools. Today, they have jobs and live in brick houses with running water and electricity. Children are no longer separated at school, and three Roma from the village are in college.

France is providing another story of discrimination against Roma being overcome. In elections on Sunday, Anina Ciuciu, a 27-year-old Roma, is running for a Senate seat. When she was 7, her parents fled discrimination in Romania and moved to France, where 67 percent of Roma children do not regularly attend school, often because of bureaucratic requirements. Luckily for Ms. Ciuciu, a teacher provided the required permanent address. She went on to study law at the Sorbonne. If elected, Ms. Ciuciu would be the first Roma to serve in France’s Senate, “a strong symbol,” she told France 24 news, “historic even.” Providing Roma in France with decent housing, or at least waiving the fixed address requirement for school, would help Roma children get the education they need to improve their lives. In 2013, Manuel Valls, who was interior minister at the time and went on to become prime minister, justified deporting Roma from France by saying that they “have lifestyles that are very different from ours, and are clearly in confrontation” with French society. As the examples of Spissky Hrhov and Ms. Ciuciu show, the only thing preventing Roma from being productive European citizens is prejudice like Mr. Valls’s.
© The New York Times

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Belgian court sentences Holocaust denier to visit 5 Nazi camps and write about it

22/9/2017- A former lawmaker in Belgium convicted of Holocaust denial in 2015 was handed an unusual sentence this week: The Brussels Court of Appeal ordered him to visit one Nazi concentration camp a year for the next five years and write about his experiences, according to the former lawmaker and local news reports. The politician, Laurent Louis, is a far-right gadfly known for making inflammatory statements about Jews. He once called former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, the first gay man to hold the post, a pedophile. Mr. Louis left Parliament in 2014. Mr. Louis was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and fined over $20,000 at his 2015 trial, which centered on online statements he made that questioned the number of Jews killed in gas chambers during the Holocaust. After that sentence was changed on Wednesday, he celebrated on Facebook and apologized “to anyone who may have been hurt by my remarks.” “All that is left for me to do is to go and report in the death camps,” he wrote in a statement. “No doubt, the Court has recognized my talents as a writer.”

Mr. Louis is a marginal figure in Belgium, but political observers said his case illustrated growing worries about anti-Semitism as well as the different approaches that the United States and Europe have taken in response to the expression of far-right views. Vocal support for Nazism and denial or expressions of doubt about the Holocaust are criminal offenses in more than a dozen European countries, including France, Germany, Belgium and Poland, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel. The type of punishment handed down to Mr. Louis is rare but has happened at least once before, in Hungary in 2013. That is in sharp contrast to the United States, where the right to express far-right views, including neo-Nazi beliefs and white supremacy, is protected by the First Amendment.

In his statement on Wednesday, Mr. Louis said he would obey the ruling and “repent every year in a death camp.” In addition to being “very educational and very powerful on a human level,” he said the experience would also be a chance to “denounce current genocides.” That is language he has used in the past to refer to Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. “Laurent Louis is generally considered as a baffoon,” said Dave Sinardet, a professor of political science at the Free University of Brussels. “He unites Belgian politicians all across the board in the sense that none of them take him seriously." But Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of history at Emory University in Atlanta, said even fringe figures should be taken seriously. She called his sentence “unusual.” “Don’t see this as one crazy guy who happens to be a Holocaust denier,” said Ms. Lipstadt, who opposes the criminalization of Holocaust denial. She is an expert on the subject: The Holocaust denier David Irving unsuccessfully sued her for libel in 1996, a trial that served as the basis for the 2016 film “Denial.

Mr. Sinardet said Mr. Louis’s election to Parliament in 2010 was “an accident” caused in part by the complexity of Belgium’s byzantine political system, which divides power between the country’s French- and Dutch-speaking communities. Mr. Louis joined and left or was expelled from several parties during his time in Parliament, often because of his “borderline racist declarations,” Mr. Sinardet said. Among them was a 2014 speech in defense of Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, a French comedian who has been tried repeatedly for anti-Semitic statements. He also created the quenelle, a hand gesture that resembles a Nazi salute. In the speech, Mr. Louis said Zionism was “worse” than Nazism and falsely claimed that the Talmud compared non-Jews to monkeys and that it “authorizes” Jews to rape non-Jewish children, according to a video of the speech posted to YouTube. Defending Mr. Dieudonné, he said the Holocaust was “one of the only historical facts that cannot be called into question.”

At trial in 2015, online statements Mr. Louis made in support of the French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen were found to have violated a law against the minimization, justification or approval of the Holocaust. “To summarize, I have invited the people who follow me to ask about Jean-Marie Le Pen’s condemnation of his remarks with regard to the gas chambers, which he considered to be a ‘detail’ of the Second World War,” Mr. Louis wrote in an email on Wednesday night. He said he had never denied the existence of the Holocaust, “but I have questioned the essential role of the gas chambers in this extermination and this questioning is prohibited by Belgian law.”

Ms. Lipstadt said that defense was common among Holocaust deniers and others on the far right who “market” their beliefs by posing as reasonable people who are simply asking hard questions. “You could have someone who says, ‘Look I know the Holocaust happened, I don’t believe in that, but I think maybe it wasn’t as bad, maybe it was exaggerated,’” she said. And she worried that Mr. Louis could use his sentence to make more inflammatory claims. “When he said, ‘The court has recognized my talents as a writer?’ Give me a break,” she said. “Can he write, ‘Well, I went and I didn’t see anybody being killed’ or, ‘These gas chambers were incapable of killing someone?’”
© The New York Times

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Asylum Seekers in Serbia Face Rejection From Landlords

Asylum-seekers in Serbia are facing a new problem as many landlords are refusing to rent them apartments, says an NGO that helps asylum-seekers find homes.

18/9/2017- Registered asylum seekers in Serbia with legal permission to find their own accommodation are being turned down by "hundreds" of landlords, making the search for new homes difficult, says the NGO Crisis Response and Policy Centre, which mediates between landlords and asylum seekers. "We make hundreds of phone calls, and maybe four or five out of a hundred [landlords] agree to show us the apartment, then some change their minds again when we arrive," says Branislava Pokusevski Kumalakanta, project coordinator at the Centre. She told BIRN that the landlords answer negatively "in 90 per cent of cases, maybe more", as soon as they hear that the apartment is for a foreign citizen seeking asylum.

The number of asylum-seekers looking for apartments is not big. Serbia is slow to process asylum-seeker’s applications, mostly due to understaffing of the National Office for Asylum, and the vast majority of processed applications are rejected. According to the National Office for Asylum statistics, not a single request was granted out of 151 filed in the first six months of 2017, while 28 people were denied asylum. In 2016, 105 applicants were denied and only 19 were accepted. Of the small number of approved applicants, an even smaller number also applies for permit to take care of their own accommodation, so that they can move out of asylum centres. According to the UNHCR in Serbia, the National Office for Asylum issued 15 such permits since the start of 2017. "If you have money and can afford to rent, [the Office] does not have a problem with that. They are very forthcoming," the UNHCR told BIRN.

The UNHCR further explained that the address is known to the authorities so they can always contact the asylum-seekers as the procedure for granting asylum continues. Pokusevski Kumalakanta says the Crisis Response and Policy Centre has been helping six or seven individuals and families to find a home in just under a year. Finding one apartment could take up to two months of "intense search". "I had answers like ‘I don’t want that in my house’. When we came to one apartment to have a look, the [landlord] just pointed us to the door and kicked us out," she says.

Legal councillor Ana Stefanovic, also at the Crisis Response and Policy Centre, says the landlords are renting their own private property and thus have the right to turn down whoever they choose. "However, the law is not very precise and this needs to be checked with the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality," Stefanovic said. She added that the Centre also saw positive examples of landlords reducing the price of rent for asylum-seekers. "Usually they raise the price, drastically. In one Belgrade suburb, a man who advertised [the apartment] for 180 euros told us that for ‘them’ the price is 300," says Pokusevski Kumalakanta.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbia's first openly-gay Prime Minister Ana Brnabic joins hundreds of marchers at LGBT pride event

'The government is here for all citizens and will secure the respect of rights for all citizens,' said Ms Brnabic

17/9/2017- Serbia’s first-ever openly gay prime minister joined several hundred activists on Sunday at a pride march that was held amid tight security in the conservative Balkan country. Holding rainbow flags, balloons and a banner reading “For change”, pride participants gathered in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, before setting off on a march through the city. Many approached Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, greeting her and taking selfies. “The government is here for all citizens and will secure the respect of rights for all citizens,” Ms Brnabic said. “We want to send a signal that diversity makes our society stronger, that together we can do more.” Serbian riot police cordoned off the city centre with metal fences early on Sunday to prevent possible clashes with extremist groups opposed to the pride gathering. Right-wing activists gathered in a central area with banners but no incidents were reported.

Ms Brnabic was elected earlier this year amid Serbia’s efforts to improve its image as it moves toward European Union membership. The EU said in 2016 Serbia needed to do more to help minorities including Roma, those with disabilities and the LGBT community. Gay activists in Serbia have hailed Ms Brnabic’s appointment as an important step in their struggle for gay rights, but say much more still needs to be done. “Today we walk together and together we will stress that problems still exist and that we want to work together to solve them,” said activist Goran Miletic, who helped to organise the march. The LGBT community has faced widespread harassment and violence from extremists in Serbia. The first ever pride march in 2001 was marred with violence, and more than 100 people were injured during a gay pride event in 2010 when police clashed with right-wing groups and soccer hooligans. Several pride events had been banned before marches resumed in 2014.

On Sunday, despite the hundreds of riot police in downtown Belgrade and the helicopters flying overhead, activists said the atmosphere was more relaxed than in previous years. Homophobia remains widespread in Serbia and other societies in the Balkans; the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church last week compared homosexuality to incest. President Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist who has rebranded himself as a pro-Western reformer, said this week he had “no intention” of joining the march.
© The Associated Press

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Serbian Pride March Awaits PM's Attendance

This year's Pride March in Belgrade on Sunday takes place amid high expectations that the new Prime Minister, as well as other government ministers, will attend for the first time.

17/9/2017- This year's Pride March in Belgrade kicks off on Sunday at the city's Cvetni Trg [square], from where it will end at Republic Square with an entertainment program. Nine organisations are reported to be participating in the march, and the organizers have announced that, for the first time ever, the Prime Minister, an open lesbian, will attend as well. Other ministers have also pledged to show up. “There will be more ministers than ever. We have announcements that Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Labour Minister Zoran Djordjevic, Minister of State Administration Branko Ruzic, European Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic and Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali will come,” Goran Miletic, from the Pride Organizational Committee, told N1 on September 12. This year's march follows the Pride Week, which started on September 11 and offered a varied program, including exhibitions, film screenings and literary evenings at various locations throughout the city.

Not all of Serbia's top state officials are keen to show solidarity with the Pride march, however. President, Aleksandar Vucic told a press conference on September 12 that he will not be there, as “he has better things to do. “I'm not in the mood, or interested … I have better things to do, and if I did not, I would not go,” he added. Belgrade's first Pride Parade in 2001 was heavily disrupted by large numbers of far-right nationalists who attacked and beat up the participants. In 2010, the parade went ahead, but several thousand young people again caused mayhem on the streets, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire. During the riots, 132 policemen and 25 members of the public were injured, while 250 people were arrested. In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Pride marches were called off as the authorities said they could not protect the participants.

In 2014, 2015, and 2016 the marches passed off without incident, however, after officials warned that violence would not be tolerated and the police maintained a high-profile presence, deploying armoured vehicles and a helicopter to prevent any attacks. While life is improving in some respects for the LGBT community in Serbia, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality's 2016 report underlined that Roma, members of the LGBT community and the poor remain heavily discriminated against in Serbia. The European Commission's Report on Serbia's Progress for 2016 also lamented a lack of political support for protection of the rights of the most discriminated-against groups, including members of the LGBTI community.

A local human rights NGO, YUCOM, in its report last year, noted a marked disproportion between the number of officially reported cases of discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people and the number of persons who had complained to NGOs about the same offences. It blamed people's lack of confidence in law and order institutions for this gap. “I'm sorry that for many years now I have to repeat that nothing special has changed,” Miletic said on Thursday, noting that LGBT people are still too often the victims of violence and discrimination. On the other hand, what is seen as major progress for LGBT rights in Serbia, an out lesbian, Ana Brnabic, became Prime Minister in June – making Serbia the first Balkan state with an openly gay Prime Minister. As in previous years, it is expected that after Sunday’s parade, right-wingers linked to the Church will probably cense of the Pride route to cleanse of it from its alleged sins.
© Balkan Insight

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Danish Muslim woman deported to Tunisia for refusing to take off niqab in Belgium airport

17/9/2017- A Danish Muslim woman, who refused to remove her face veil –niqab- during security checks at Brussels airport, was deported to Tunisia, Belgian officials said Saturday. Belgium's State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken confirmed the incident on his official Twitter account. "A Danish citizen coming from Tunisia refused to take off her niqab at our border. Police could not identify her. She was sent back to Tunis," Francken tweeted. He did not identify the woman by her name. "Thursday I informed my Danish colleague Inger [Stojberg, Danish minister for immigration, integration and housing] about the niqab-incident with a Danish citizen on our Schengenborder," he added. In November 2015, police in Brussels briefly held a Saudi woman wearing a niqab. In 2011, Belgium introduced a law providing for fines and up to seven days' imprisonment for anyone covering their face in a public place to the extent that they could not be identified.
© Daily Sabah

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Germany: How do you deal with the far-right AfD party? (opinion)

Is ostracizing the Alternative for Germany really the best strategy? It is time for the country's establishment parties to reflect on why the right-wing populists have risen so rapidly, writes DW's Kay-Alexander Scholz.

19/9/2017- During the last session of parliamentary debate in Germany's current legislative period, one question that occupied the press was where space could be found for the two extra parties that would presumably soon be entering the Bundestag. Things are already rather tight in the assembly hall, and space must be found for two new aisles to separate the incoming groups. Will the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) be seated in the middle? And the Alternative for Germany (AfD) on the far right? The joke was that only one large aisle would be needed because the other parties would squeeze together trying to get as far away from the AfD as possible.

The joke fits with the way establishment parties have been reacting to the rise of the AfD. They warn Germany's political culture could erode as a result of the far-right populists entering the country's lower house of parliament. Some are already demanding that AfD representatives be denied seats in parliamentary committees. And moves to that effect have already been made: Rules dictating the order of business have been changed to keep AfD parliamentarians from becoming committee chairs based on seniority. That decision provided far-right politicians with a healthy amount of campaign ammunition as they railed against the establishment and portrayed themselves as political victims.

'A vote is a vote!'
It is high time to remember that every party and every parliamentarian is a representative of the people who voted for them. Parliament belongs to no one party and nobody has the right to put themselves ahead of anyone else. Parties can be voted into parliament just as easily they can be voted out. None of them have lifetime appointments. Anything other than that would be a dictatorship, or at the least, political oligarchy. Anyone looking beyond Germany's borders to Europe as a whole can easily see just how dynamic politics has become. The Socialists in France and Greece, once grand parties, are now floundering in the single digits. And Germany's democracy is breathing heavy, too: In the 1980s, when major parties refused to acknowledge the conflict between economics and the environment, the Green party came into existence. When the Social Democratic Party (SPD) abandoned its base with the Agenda 2010 program, the fledgling Left party gained traction nationwide. And when the FDP devolved into an unrecognizable neoliberal version of its former self, it was voted out of the Bundestag in 2013.

AfD is the product of political failure
Most of the establishment parties have bought into the concept that the best defense is a good offense, in order to make up for their own lack of substantive arguments against AfD. But in truth, they should be asking themselves what they did wrong over the last several years to set the stage for this rising new competitor. What political failures have made the AfD poised to become the third largest party in the Bundestag? The establishment parties refuse to accept any responsibility, preferring instead to simply go on the attack. But AfD voters are not crazy souls who must be brought back onto the path of political righteousness. Their voices are a testament to the failed policies pursued by the major parties. Many of the problems and concerns of Germany's citizens have simply been ignored.

Political experts continue to gloss over those failures, and the citizenry has reacted accordingly. Such experts have the audacity to describe wind turbines as romantic additions to the landscape, even though property owners are essentially expropriated. Who wants to buy a farm that is constantly subjected to the deafening whirl of a massive rotating turbine? Many also ignored the fact that globalization produces not only winners but also a lot of losers – even though this has been a topic of discussion in the United States for years, long before Donald Trump came along. And it is also worth remembering the democratic damage done by discussions about whether some citizens even had the right to voice their opinion.

Pride, dignity and calm are in order
The AfD will almost certainly win seats in the Bundestag, and it must be guaranteed the rights that other political parties in the body enjoy. Yet it must be made clear that it also has the same responsibilities. The AfD will have to learn just how tedious politics is, how much equanimity and compromise it demands. Should it fail in that regard, its base will no doubt take note. Several state parliaments have had experience dealing with old-fashioned, right-wing extremist parties or even populists before, as was the case in Hamburg in the early 2000s with the short-lived Party for a Rule of Law Offensive. Yet all of them are now gone. This time, however, things could also turn out differently – the AfD could become an establishment party. Just as the "long-haired anarchists" of the Greens or the "communists" of the Left party did. But should the AfD further radicalize, then law enforcement and the courts will be called for.

It is time to learn from the mistakes of the past. Creeping polarization – the core competence of populists – must be stopped. But embarrassing overreactions and helpless flailing will do little to help. Instead, parliamentarians should be proud, dignified and coolheaded in working together with citizens to make a beautiful, internationally beloved and economically strong Germany fit for the future! For despite all of the difficulties and challenges, Germany today is already the best it has ever been.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Waving German flag, far-right and anti-Islam groups rally together before vote

19/9/2017- In the shadows of a Dresden church, hundreds of Alternative for Germany party members rallied with anti-Islam activists, counting down the days to a vote set to make the AfD the first far-right group in parliament in more than half a century. Supporters of both movements stood side by side waving Germany’s black, red and gold flag - a public demonstration of the fellow feeling between AfD and hardline PEGIDA, though they are officially separate groups. Outside the city’s towering Frauenkirche - destroyed by Allied bombing in World War Two, then rebuilt after reunification - supporters stood by a huge blue banner that urged people to vote for the AfD on Sept. 24. One supporter held an AfD poster bearing the slogan: “Get your country back”.

The AfD could become the third largest party with up to 12 percent of the vote, polls show, built on its calls for Germany to shut its borders to immigrants and stop refugees bringing in their families. The party rejects its mainstream rivals’ efforts to compare it to the Nazis. Some AfD members have also been keen to keep their distance from PEGIDA - full name the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. But PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann told supporters to cast their ballots for the AfD on Monday night. “Both votes should go to what is currently the only alternative for Germany, which also bears this name, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Together, we can make it,” Bachmann said.

In Germany voters cast two ballots in a mixed-member proportional voting system - the first directly for a candidate in his or her constituency and the second for a party. The second vote determines the distribution of seats in parliament. PEGIDA has been meeting in Dresden regularly for almost three years and at its peak in early 2015 drew crowds of around 25,000 but has since largely disappeared from the headlines as its support base has dwindled. Alexander Gauland, one of the AfD’s top candidates, told a news conference that Islam was a political doctrine and did not belong to Germany. The 76-year-old was widely criticized for saying Germans should be proud of what their soldiers achieved during World War One and Two. One of the officers he named was Claus von Stauffenberg, who led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 with a bomb in a briefcase.

Von Stauffenberg’s grandson wrote an article for newspaper Die Welt saying he was outraged by Gauland’s comments and his grandfather and other leading figures of German culture would be proud of immigration and diversity in Germany’s history. On Monday Gauland said recent estimates showed 95 percent of German soldiers were not involved in war crimes and their families wanted to be proud of their sacrifices. “This has nothing to do with the crimes committed by the leaders. I addressed the individual performance of German soldiers in two world wars. I reiterate that,” he added. Alice Weidel, the AfD’s other top candidate, said the arrival of more than a million migrants over the last two years had made Germany “a safe haven for criminals and terrorists”. Weidel, who is openly lesbian, also said that perpetrators of attacks against homosexuals were “always the same,” namely “people with Muslim backgrounds, Arabs”.
© Reuters

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German populist party head says country should stop feeling guilty about Nazi past

The head of Germany’s right-populist Alternative for Germany party has said it is high time Germany stopped feeling guilty about its Nazi past.

17/9/2017- Alexander Gauland, speaking earlier this month with members of the party’s national-conservative branch in the former east German state of Thuringia, said Germans “don’t have to be held accountable any more for those 12 years [of the Nazi regime]. They don’t affect our identity today any longer. And we’re not afraid to say so.” Gauland added that if the French and British were “rightly proud” of their 20th century military history, “we have the right to be proud of the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars.” The party, which Gauland had a hand in founding four years ago, now has legislators in 13 out of Germany’s 16 states, and is trying for seats in the national Bundestag in German’s Sept 24 elections. With its anti-immigrant, anti-Europe platform the party has racked up more electoral successes than any other right-wing party in recent memory. First reported by Buzzfeed, Gauland’s remarks — and the applause they garnered — can be seen on video.

The comments unleashed a storm of criticism from mainstream parties, on the eve of Germany’s national election. “I can’t possibly imagine how one can be even the slightest bit proud of millions of dead, barbaric war crimes and the destruction of Europe,” Thomas Oppermann, head of the Bundestag faction of the Social Democratic Party, told the Zeit newspaper online. He called Gauland’s comments a “tasteless historical revisionism.” Green Party legislator Volker Beck told the newspaper he thought Gauland’s statements were becoming “increasingly disgusting.” Particularly given that German soldiers took part in the mass shootings of Jews on the eastern front, “there is nothing to be proud of,” he added.

Charges have already been filed against Gauland for suggesting that Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Integration, Aydan Özoðuz, could be “disposed of” in Turkey. Observers say Gauland’s comments about German Wehrmacht soldiers were aimed at receptive ears: The controversial local politician Björn Höcke, a member of the Thuringen AfD wing that organized the recent meeting, has called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin “a monument to shame” and urged Germans to focus first and foremost on the “great accomplishments of our ancestors.”
© JTA News.

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Battleground Berlin: Will Russian-Germans vote for the far right?

For some in the community, its reputation for xenophobia is a call to action.

17/9/2017- As long as the Russian-speaking enclave on Berlin’s eastern edge voted for the far left, it was largely invisible on the German political map. But then its residents started voting for the far right. Widespread support among Russian-speaking Germans is one of the key elements that is expected to propel the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag in this month’s parliamentary election. That will mark the first time since World War II that a far-right party has held a national elected office. For some young Russian-Germans, their community’s reputation for xenophobia is a call to action.

Dmitri Geidel has been canvassing the streets of Marzahn, a nondescript cluster of high-rises in eastern Berlin, where Russian-speakers make up 12 percent of the population. By encouraging his community to vote for the Social Democrats, the political newcomer wants to dispel what he considers a dangerous myth: that Germany’s Russian-speakers are pawns of Moscow-driven propaganda. What Geidel would like to show is that the all-too-often neglected constituency can be swayed by policies that target their social concerns — specifically better wages and access to pensions. “[The Social Democratic Party] could take this district,” said the 28-year-old Russian-born Ph.D. student. “Many people living here suffer from a difficult social situation — not least elder Russians, who didn’t have their Soviet qualifications recognized when they came here and either went unemployed, or accepted jobs below their qualifications.”

People born in the former Soviet Union and their children make up Germany’s largest minority, with a population of about 2.4 million. Among them, support for the AfD could reach 15 to 20 percent, based on focus group results, according to Achim Goerres, professor of political science at the University of Duisburg. That, said Geidel, does not mean that his community is necessarily more disposed to support the far right. “In the local elections last year, AfD scored well in other Berlin boroughs, where there are no Russian-Germans, but many social problems,” said Geidel. “Russian-Germans are not more racist than German society more broadly.” Many older Russian émigrés did bring “anti-Muslim stereotypes with them from the Soviet Union” and are susceptible to anti-immigration rhetoric, Geidel conceded. But residents in Marzahn, the largely Russian-German borough in east Berlin, where he is campaigning for the SPD, also offered up the neighborhood’s gymnasiums as accommodation for Syrian refugees in 2015. “We finally got rid of the stereotypes that abounded around Russian-Germans in the 1990s, and now I fear that they could reappear — whereas discrimination was what alienated many people in the first place,” said Geidel.

What may be more worrying to many Germans is the Russian-German community’s vulnerability to disinformation from Moscow, especially if the Kremlin tries to sway the diaspora’s vote through social media and state television. In January 2016, fake Russian media reports helped turn an alleged rape incident into a tense diplomatic standoff. After “Lisa,” a local 13-year-old girl of Russian origin, alleged she had been abducted and raped by migrants, hundreds of protesters gathered in front Mix Markt, a Russian-style supermarket in Marzahn. During the demonstrations, some in the crowd shouted anti-migrant statements and threatened to “meet violence with violence.” In interviews with Kremlin-controlled media, protesters blamed Angela Merkel and her refugee policy for the rape, and repeated the statements at a protest in front of the chancellor’s office. Protesters included members of the German Nazi party and the AfD.

Authorities later discovered the allegations were false; the girl had fabricated the story. But the incident provoked a tense diplomatic standoff between Berlin and Moscow, and was a public-relations nightmare for Merkel, who had to defend her decision to open the country’s borders to close to 1 million migrants and refugees. For many Germans, the “Lisa case” was the first worrying sign that Russian state-controlled media could rally the diaspora against their adopted country and seriously disrupt national politics. Now, as Germans head to the polls in the aftermath of the Russian hacking scandal that marred last year’s U.S. presidential campaign — and similar attacks on the Bundestag in 2015 — the idea that Moscow could tip the scales at the ballot box is gaining wider currency.

For Geidel, the vehemence of the protests that erupted around the Lisa case in 2016 had less to do xenophobia than with the fact that the incident struck close to home — “people had children in the same school,” he said. “Some knew the family.” Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and ensuing EU sanctions have also recently shaken the minority, he said, and forced them to choose between Germany and Russia. “Until then, people didn’t really discuss politics,” Geidel recalled. “This broke the taboo, and for some time it was very hard. Parents were calling their children fascists for standing on the side of Ukraine … But in the end, I think we learned that one can have different opinions.”

As a social worker active in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Medina Schaubert, 31, is one of Geidel’s opponents in the election. But in working to win votes away from the far right, the two are on the same side. Schaubert is part of a Russian-German grassroots organization that coordinates cooking classes for locals to mingle with newly arrived refugees. The aim is to counter a narrative pushed by the AfD — and Russian state media — that while the German state left Russian migrants to fend for themselves, Syrian refugees are getting a free ride. Many Russian-Germans are skeptical, even afraid, of the encounters at first, she said, but those barriers quickly break down when they come face-to-face with refugees.

Older Russian speakers in Germany, especially, are “quite lost, identity-wise,” said Schaubert, who arrived in Berlin in 1997 as part of a wave of ethnic Germans who moved east in the 18th century but returned after the fall of the Soviet Union. “We didn’t consider ourselves refugees,” she said. “We were German, and we had to leave because people kept telling us that we were fascists. We came hoping that we would stop feeling bad about being German. But once here, it turned out we are Russians.” Schaubert is a member of the managing board of the local CDU branch. She joined the party, which allowed ethnic Germans to resettle, out of gratitude.

Two-thirds of Russian-speaking Germans have so far voted for the CDU, according to the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), an independent think tank. Still, Schaubert sees evidence of anti-Russia bias every day — even within her party, she said, citing her colleagues’ disapproval of her use of Russian in her public profiles on social media. She does it as often as possible, she said, in the hope that they will stop seeing it as “something strange.” Russians living in Germany shouldn’t be asked to erase their culture, she said. “You can’t just abandon your history.”
Aleksandra Eriksson, a Polish-Swedish journalist based in Brussels.
© Politico EU

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The German Election and Donald Trump

How German–U.S. Relations Are Shaping the Race
By Dominik Tolksdorf


16/9/2017- Since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, Germans have lost trust in the United States. According to an opinion poll conducted by Infratest dimap in February 2017, only 22 percent of German respondents considered the United States a reliable partner, down from 59 percent in November 2016. According to a June 2017 survey by Pew Research, moreover, 87 percent of German respondents have no confidence that Trump will do the right thing in world affairs. That has hurt the United States’ overall image; Pew Research data shows that 62 percent of German respondents have unfavorable views of the country. In 2015, that figure was at 45 percent. Given such strong feelings, it makes sense that Trump has been a frequent topic in Germany’s ongoing federal election campaign.

Whether it is his response to the violence in Charlottesville, his announcement of new sanctions on Russia, his pressure on the German government to increase its defense budget, or the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany, there is no shortage of fodder for German politicians looking to pick up votes. Most leading candidates, for example, have expressed concern over the right-wing violence in Charlottesville. Chancellor Angela Merkel (from the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU) argued that clear, forceful action must be taken against such racist, far-right violence. Her main opponent, Martin Schulz (from the Social Democratic Party, or SPD), took an even harder line, calling the incident “Nazi terror” and finding it shocking that Trump “remained silent about this kind of terror, or makes comments that would allow those who committed these acts of violence there to feel encouraged.”

The new sanctions law drafted by Congress and signed into law by Trump on August 2 is another subject that received plenty of airtime. Although primarily directed at Russian companies, the law could lead to penalties on German companies that do business with Russian counterparts, particularly in the energy field. In response to the first draft of the legislation, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) accused the United States of threatening Europe's energy security to promote U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe. Schulz shares Gabriel’s view. And Brigitte Zypries, another SPD politician and Germany's minister for economic affairs and energy, argued that the sanctions violate international law and are intended to hurt European business interests in Russia.

A spokesman for Merkel confirmed that she shares these concerns. Meanwhile, Sahra Wagenknecht of the opposition Left Party criticized the new U.S. law as blatantly promoting American economic interests in Europe. She called for the EU to lift its sanctions on Russia. Christian Lindner of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) similarly argued that the EU’s sanctions on Russia could be gradually lifted even without Russia’s full implementation of the Minsk Agreement; a position that was rejected by the German government. Trump’s pressure on Germany and other NATO members to increase their defense budgets is another topic that has been widely covered in the German media in the past months and has come up in the campaign. Although the Obama administration regularly called on NATO allies to commit to their pledge to increase their defense budgets to two percent of economic output within a decade, Trump has increased the pressure for them to do so.

German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen of the CDU has argued that Germany must abide by its multilateral commitments and regards the target as an incentive for the modernization of the German military. Merkel also supports the two percent target. In contrast, leading SPD politicians, including Schulz, oppose increasing defense spending on historical grounds. They warn that more spending would make Germany the most powerful military power in Europe, a scenario that they are not interested in. Gabriel has urged Merkel to promote disarmament and better arms controls instead of giving in to Trump’s pressure and risking a new arms race in Europe. Trump has further announced a desire to modernize U.S. nuclear capacities, some of which are based in Europe.

During a campaign speech, Schulz pledged to negotiate a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany if he becomes the next German chancellor. He argued that the recent clash between Trump and North Korea illustrates the need for arms limitation and nuclear disarmament. Although Merkel did not immediately comment on the issue, members of her CDU denounced Schulz’s statements as cheap campaign rhetoric and argued that credible nuclear deterrence remains an important part of the NATO security architecture. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the top candidate of the Green Party, supports Schulz’ calls for a nuclear-free Germany but has accused the SPD of having missed out on engagement in this field so far.

Each party has struck a slightly different stance on Trump during its campaign. Although the Left Party is generally U.S.-skeptical in its positions, no other main party uses openly anti-American rhetoric. The CDU is critical of Trump, but Merkel seems reluctant to openly play the anti-Trump card in the election campaign. She has said that Trump must be shown appropriate respect for holding the office of the U.S. presidency even if she may differ with him on policy issues. SPD politicians, in an effort to differentiate themselves from Merkel, with whom they are still in a government coalition, have been notably more critical of the U.S. president. Schulz has said that people like Trump, to whom he referred as “irresponsible man in the White House,” must be openly opposed—something he promised to do if elected. Schulz has criticized Merkel for not taking a tough enough stance on Trump.

The dynamic is somewhat reminiscent of the 2002 Bundestag election, when the SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder harshly criticized the United States for its plans to invade Iraq. Merkel, then in the opposition, supported the U.S. administration and considered a close partnership with Washington a fundamental element of German foreign policy. Schröder won the election, in part because of his clear opposition to the Iraq War. It was probably to avoid the criticism that she still blindly follows the United States that Merkel made clear she would not automatically support Trump in a war with North Korea.

But a 2002 scenario is unlikely to happen again. Schulz is more moderate in his positions than Schröder and was reluctant to wage an anti-American campaign. And Merkel herself has expressed doubts about the reliability of traditional alliances, alluding to the United States under Trump. She has also argued that Europe will have to take its fate into its own hands. This was a popular move in Germany, reassuring many Germans that Merkel will not cozy up to Trump after the election but will continue to criticize his actions if needed.

© Foreign Affairs

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Germany: Far-right Reichsbürger propaganda sold in Rewe supermarket

A German supermarket chain has been caught selling propaganda from a banned far-right organization. It says that all publications have the right to be displayed.

16/9/2017- German supermarket giant Rewe sold extremist propaganda in at least one of its stores, Funke media group papers reported on Saturday. Magazin2000plus was available from the shelves of a Berlin branch, but Rewe could not verify how widely the magazine was distributed throughout its nationwide chain of stores. The magazine ran several articles that carried the messages of the Reichsbürger movement, a banned far-right organization with similarities to the US "sovereign citizen" movement. The group has been designated a terrorist group and is considered to be far-right, nationalist, and often anti-Semitic. Its proponents tout the conspiracy theory that the Federal Republic of Germany does not legally exist because Germany never signed a peace treaty with the Allies at the end of World War II. According to their conclusively debunked line of thinking, Germany is an occupied country and its borders remain unchanged from the German Reich - either of 1871 or 1937. Its followers do not recognize the authority of the German government or its constitution, or Basic Law, and often refuse to pay tax.

Increasingly violent
The group has 12,600 followers throughout Germany, according to the German domestic intelligence agency - including members in the police force. Reichsbürger followers often print their own passports and driver's licenses for their make-believe states, ignoring the fact that such activity is illegal. Their websites carry messages that they intend to "carry on the fight against the Federal Republic of Germany." The group has gained notoriety in recent years for its increasingly violent nature. Police have seized large caches of weapons and ammunition, while one follower has been charged with killing a policeman. In Höxter, North Rhine-Westphalia a group from the "Free State of Prussia" even attempted to build up its own militia by smuggling in arms from outside the country.

Magazine promotes ideology
The magazine that Rewe was reportedly selling was addressed to "everyone who carries a personal ID," referring to the government issued identification cards Germans are required to hold. Its articles reportedly argued that Germany is a limited liability company and Chancellor Angela Merkel is the managing director, a common chain of argument used by Reichsbürger followers. Another article reportedly argued that the Basic Law, or constitution, adopted after World War II, was used as a "means of occupation by the Allies" and was only provisional. Therefore, it argued, the German Reich continues to exist under international law, and the Federal Republic has no constitutional basis.

Right to display
Rewe told Berliner Morgenpost that its selection of magazines is decided by the press wholesaler that supplies them. Furthermore, "all magazines have a right to appearance and display, so long as the content does not violate relevant laws," a spokesman said. "Right-wing and left-wing extremist publications also fall within the scope of freedom of expression and freedom of the press," he was quoted as saying. The magazine claims a print-run of 30,000. It tends to publish esoteric articles, often dealing with UFOs, conspiracies, free energy and alternative medicine. The publisher Ingrid Schlotterbeck has described herself in interviews as the "Foreign Minister" of the "Commissary Government of the German Reich."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Italy Lays Down the Law: No More Mussolini Wine, No More Hitler Cakes

As the U.S. debates Confederate monuments and Congress calls on Trump to denounce Nazis, the Italians are outlawing anything capitalizing on their own fascist nostalgia.

16/9/2017- Baker Umberto Avigliano of the southern Italian town of Maratea was just doing business when he put the finishing touches on the toothbrush mustache on a cake emblazoned with the face of Adolf Hitler above the inscription, “Auguri Chef,” (Best Wishes, Chef). He had taken the order for the €30 ($36) cake from the waitstaff at a local restaurant who apparently have a running joke with their chef who they say looks and sometimes acts a lot like the German Führer. But when he put the cake in the refrigerated window case for pick up, locals from the town complained and the local paper accused him of “making Nazism banal” under the headline: “How is it possible that we have made a sweet treat from the man responsible for the Holocaust?” “It wasn’t my choice to make that cake,” Avigliano told The Daily Beast by phone. “Some people want sexy women on their cakes; some people want dictators. I’m just the baker.”

Avigliano says he took the Nazi cake out of the window case after several people stopped in the shop to complain. But the fact he felt no qualms about making a Hitler cake in the first place is telling. The country is peppered with monuments to Italy’s dark past, and it is common for Italians affiliated with the far-right parties to lament the passing of that dark era. There is wine with Benito Mussolini labels and even a 650-bed beach club near Venice that was warned last month for displaying outright Fascist Party propaganda. Just last week, the far-right Forza Nuova Party introduced an anti-immigration poster featuring a white woman in the clutches of a black man, almost exactly like the propaganda Mussolini used against American soldiers during World War II, right down to the slogan: “Defend her from the new invaders.”

But homage to the horror might soon be a thing of the past. On Tuesday, Italy’s lower house of parliament passed a law that criminalizes fascism fanaticism. The measure includes jail time for the public display of the stiff-armed Roman salute commonly used by fascists and Nazis. Those who display or sell fascist or Nazi gadgets also face six-month to two-year sentences, which would increase by eight months if those goods are sold online.
© The Daily Beast

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Headlines 15 September, 2017

Malta: Mayors to boycott Marsa protest over far-right presence

Moviment Patrijotti Maltin to attend

15/9/2017- The mayors of Marsa, Ħamrun, Paola, Pietà, Msida, Gżira and Floriana will boycott a "solidarity walk" being organised in Marsa on Sunday after they objected to the presence of far-right activists. The walk organised by a group of Marsa residents and being held on Sunday at 9.30am was provoked after reports of "lawlessness". Police carried out a high-profile swoop on migrants in Marsa and the government first announced that residents at the town's open centre would be moved to Ħal Far before stopping the relocation two days later. The anti-immigration ‘Patriots’ party will be at the walk, which it said was being organised by residents and not by any political party. Meetings are still underway between the Labour mayors and councillors, the association and the government over ways to improve security in the localities – which they said had already led to an improvement in the situation.
© The Times of Malta

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Austria's far right woos voters with restrictive migration policies

15/9/2017- The Freedom Party (FPOe) aims to enter Austria's next cabinet with plans to fight Islamists and to cut welfare for migrants, the far-right movement made clear on Wednesday as it unveiled its platform for the October parliamentary election. There was no need to include refugees into Austrian society, as they should return home once their countries are safe again, FPOe deputy chief Norbert Hofer told a press conference in Vienna. "I don't understand why there are efforts to integrate them," the opposition politician said. Led by Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPOe has a chance of forming a cabinet with the Social Democrats (SPOe) or the conservative People's Party (OeVP) after the October 15 vote, as neither of these two centrist parties rule out a coalition with the far right.

The FPOe platform, titled "100 FPOe Demands," also includes calls to pay welfare to immigrants only after five years of residence and to fight radical Islam. In addition, Austria should consider whether to replace the European Convention on Human Rights with a national charter of fundamental rights. Like the FPOe, the OeVP also pushes for welfare cuts for immigrants and to curb migrant arrivals. SPOe and OeVP have formed coalitions for the past decade, but they have become increasingly estranged over the years, triggering a call for early elections. Led by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, the OeVP has been leading polls with 33 percent, while Chancellor Christian Kern's SPOe and the FPOe are competing for second place with around 25 percent supporting each.
© DPA

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Hungary's Orban to Reportedly Set Soros as Key Campaign Issue

Speaking to lawmakers of his party in a closed meeting, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban said that fighting billionaire George Soros will be his central campaign theme

14/9/2017- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reportedly said that fighting billionaire George Soros' perceived agenda will be the prime minister's key campaign theme in next year's general elections, the Hungarian Origo news website reported. During the meeting with lawmakers of his Fidesz party, Orban reportedly told lawmakers of his plan to hold a "national consultation" to survey voters' views on what it calls the "Soros plan" on migration, insisting that his chances for reelection rely on the Soros plan's failure.

Soros' spokesman Michael Vachon in July dismissed the idea that the financier and philanthropist was promoting a scheme to import millions of illegal immigrants into Europe."Soros's actual position on migration is that the international community should provide more support to the developing countries that today host 89 percent of refugees and that Europe should accept several hundred thousand fully screened refugees through an orderly process of vetting and resettlement," he said.

Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew who has spent a large part of his fortune funding pro-democracy and human rights groups, has repeatedly been targeted by Hungary's right-wing government, in particular over his support for more open immigration. Orban faced charges of stoking anti-Semitism earlier this year with a billboard campaign targeting the philanthropist. After Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Yossi Amrani called on Orban to remove the posters on grounds of anti-Semitism, the Foreign Ministry retracted the statement on Prime Minister Netanyahu's orders.
© Reuters

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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 Direktno.hr, one of them wrote: “Bishop, your every word is worth gold.”
© Balkan Insight

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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

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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

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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.

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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.
© PRI

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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 Vìra 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

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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.

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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

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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 t-online.de, 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Scottish far-right group could become second neo-Nazi organisation in Britain to be banned

14/9/2017- A far-right group in Scotland which describes itself as "a patriotic society for the defence of our race and nation" could become the second neo-Nazi organisation in Britain to be banned under proposals being weighed up by Whitehall officials. Scottish Dawn was established earlier this year shortly after another group, National Action (NA), was classified as a terrorist organisation by the Home Secretary. NA was outlawed because its members celebrated the murder of the MP Jo Cox. But suspicions that some its followers have simply swapped membership of one extremist organisation for another to circumvent the ban have prompted the Home Office to consider whether the new group should be outlawed too. I understand that politicians and officials have yet to decide whether the actions of Scottish Dawn have reached the threshold that must be met to make it a criminal offence to join or support the group.

Although they consider Scottish Dawn to be one of the most dangerous organisations to emerge during a recent rise in far-right activity, officials are obliged to first consider whether proscription would be proportionate. Scottish Dawn's first public appearance was at a demonstration about housing for refugees in Alloa in March. Members waved bright yellow flags displaying a black symbol known as the “life rune”, which was also used in Nazi propaganda. ITV News spoke to protesters who enthusiastically denied having any links to NA. “National Action? What are you talking about?” “Never heard of them." But since then, investigators have been closely studying the group’s activities. One police source claims that some members have already stopped waving the Scottish Dawn from flag at public events for fear it might attract the attention of the security services.

Scottish Dawn’s website does not refer to violence or white supremacy, but invokes a Nazi philosophy by using the slogan “blood and soil”, which implies that ethnicity is based solely on blood descent. The rallying cry was chanted by white nationalists during the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month. Investigators believe National Action has followed what could be called "the al-Muhajiroun model". Once Anjem Choudary’s network was classified as a terror group in 2004, some of its members simply dropped the group’s name to dodge the restrictions placed on it. Choudary frustrated authorities for years, flouting the ban by rebranding his group. He was jailed last year.

The Home Office refused to comment on whether they are considering proscribing Scottish Dawn. Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry McLean, who heads Police Scotland's Organised Crime & Counter Terrorism Unit (OCCTU), said: "National Action is the first domestic extremist group to have been proscribed by the Home Secretary and there is no place in Scotland for these types of extreme right wing views. "Where we identify instances of new groups or individuals who have broken away from National Action we will work with partners and our communities to target and disrupt those involved."
© ITV

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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. Independent.ie 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

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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.

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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*

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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*

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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

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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*

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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