NEWS - Archive July 2011

Headlines 29 July, 2011


29/7/2011- Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), welcomed today’s decision by the Polish parliament to declare 2 August as the official Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day. “This is a historic step forward in the official recognition of the persecution and extermination of Roma and Sinti during World War II,” Lenarčič said. He encouraged other OSCE participating States to follow Poland’s example in recognizing and commemorating the deportation and killing of Roma and Sinti under Nazi rule. The 2 August marks the day when the last group of 2,897 Roma and Sinti, mostly elderly people, women and children, were killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1944. In total some 23,000 Roma and Sinti died in the "Zigeunerlager" and gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The official recognition of the suffering of Roma and Sinti during World War II is important for raising awareness of this long-neglected genocide and integrating it into mainstream remembrance and education, Lenarčič said. “Remembering the past is indispensable if we are to be successful in our contemporary efforts to fight intolerance, discrimination and hate crimes,” he added. On the occasion of this year’s remembrance day, ODIHR is organizing an international seminar in Cracow, Poland, on 1 August to discuss ways to teach about the Roma and Sinti genocide with the aim of preserving the legacy of the victims and combating modern forms of racism and discrimination. Representatives of national and local authorities, historians and other experts, as well as some 90 young Roma will participate in the meeting.

ODIHR and the Council of Europe will also launch a website on the Roma and Sinti genocide. The website has been jointly developed to promote knowledge and teaching on the subject. ODIHR assists the OSCE's participating States in implementing their commitments to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance and non-discrimination. The 2003 OSCE Roma and Sinti Action Plan calls for the inclusion of Roma history and culture, particularly their experience during the Holocaust, in educational material.
© The OSCE



29/7/2011- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has formed an inter-departmental commission headed by the country''s Interior Minister to combat home-grown extremism in the backdrop of Norway-like massacre. According to the Kremlin, the commission will develop measures to prevent manifestations of extremism and remove those conditions which fuel it. The commission will also include 16 heads of other ministries and agencies - from the Federal Security Service (FSB), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to the ministries of Culture and mass communications. The Russian social networking site vKontakte, the home grown copy of Facebook, had to shut its services for some time after it was flooded with comments hailing the Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik as a hero and expressing support for his ideas.

Presiding over the first meeting of the commission today, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev recalled last week''s tragic events in Norway saying they "have once again shown how dangerous extremist views are today, how destructive they are. "One of the main goals of the commission is to coordinate the activities of federal bodies and regional authorities in fighting individuals and groups who incite xenophobia or are involved in extremist activities," he said. Hundreds of dark skinned foreigners and non-ethnic Russians have fallen victims to the racial violence in big cities by the ethnic-Russian neo Nazi and hate groups over last few years.

The Russian authorities finally had to act against extremism and xenophobia after riots on Manezh Square right under the nose of the Kremlin and State Duma in December last year, when hundreds of soccer fans clashed with police over the killing of their fellow fan in a street brawl by natives from the North Caucasus. Last week, prime minister Vladimir Putin met with religious leaders to discuss the problem which has clearly become tense in recent months. He said the people should be taught tolerance, adding that a governmental agency could be created to supervise the issues of inter-ethnic relations in Russia.
© The Press Trust of India



Although the Russian Government’s Attitude Toward Ultra Nationalists Seems to Be Changing, Containing Nationalist Sentiment in Russia Is a Difficult Balancing Act
By Justin Lyle

28/7/2011- The massacre that shook Norway last week raised some difficult questions about the extreme right in Europe and in Russia. Anders Behring Breivik’s slaughter of teenagers at a political summer camp near Oslo shocked the world, not only by the extraordinary scale and brutality of the act, but because it took place in the famously prosperous and calm country that hosts the Nobel Peace Prize. The massacre lent support to claims that ethno-nationalist extremism is an inevitable phenomenon of today’s multicultural wider Europe, an inescapable local-level “clash of civilizations.” However, this convenient explanation hides the socio-economic causes of ultra-right activism and obscures the role that state policy plays in encouraging or alleviating ethnic tensions. With Russian ethno-nationalist extremism a prominent feature of the country’s social landscape, understanding the roots of the ultra-right phenomenon is crucial to curbing unrest.

Less than a fortnight before the Norway massacre, Russia had seen some 13 of its own ultra-rightist killers convicted in an unprecedented court case. On July 11, the Moscow Region Military Court sentenced five members of the neo-Nazi National-Socialist Organization (NSO) North to life imprisonment, and the remaining eight individuals tried received between ten and 23-year sentences. This tough verdict seems to mark a major change in the government’s attitude toward the ultra-right. Between January 2008 and early 2009, the ultra-rightists attacked more than 50 people and murdered 27, mostly on the basis of their “non-Slavic appearance.” On January 1, 2008, Lev Molotkov, a 27-year-old computer programmer and leader of this northern division of the neo-Nazi group, declared a year of “white terror.” The participants in that terror campaign convicted this month included a 17-year-old schoolboy, a female student of the Moscow State University journalism faculty, and 11 men in their early and mid-20s.

The NSO North branch became semi-independent in autumn of 2007, when the umbrella organization NSO, founded by Dmitry Rumyantsev, a former assistant to a State Duma deputy in 2004, decided to divide into regional groupings. Members received training in the use of firearms, in hand-to-hand and knife combat and in terrorist techniques such as uprooting train tracks. The neo-Nazis’ victims were mostly dark-skinned people from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, but the group also killed an anti-fascist activist and a “traitor” from within their own ranks – the latter was tortured on camera for several hours, to a sound track of music from Russian children’s films and the German group Rammstein.

Observers have criticized the limited scope and closed nature of the court proceedings, arguing that powerful figures in the background of nationalist extremism, not least among them the organization’s founder Rumyantsev, are not being sniffed out. The fact that the case was heard behind closed doors by a military court and without a jury raised suspicion. Critics have pointed to Rumyantsev’s political connections, arguing that he must have enjoyed the blessing of members of the political establishment. Certainly, he made a timely exit from the NSO, just a month before the neo-Nazi activists were arrested. According to monitoring by the Moscow-based Sova Center on xenophobia, this spring has seen only one third of the number of racist attacks – down from 97 to 34 incidents – witnessed during the same period of 2010. St. Petersburg and the surrounding region saw more attacks (17 victims) than Moscow and the Moscow Region (11 victims) for the first time, and incidents were also registered in Vologda, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Saratov and Bashkiria. Central Asians and enemy youth activists bore the brunt of these assaults, and people from the North Caucasus were also attacked. Since the start of 2011, 64 people have suffered hate-crime, and 11 were killed – a significant year on year drop.

More moderate nationalist sentiment is widespread in Russia, and polls earlier this year suggested that 15 percent of the population thinks that the slogan “Russia for the Russians” should be brought into effect immediately, while 40 percent support it “within reasonable bounds.” Statements and willingness to vote or act are very different, however, and there is no evidence of widespread support for racist violence. The annual Russian March on November 4, bringing together nationalists from various organizations, was unusually well attended last year. It was followed in December by rioting by 6,000 protesters on Manezh Square near the Kremlin. The December unrest followed close on the heels of the killing of Yegor Sviridov, a Russian football fan, allegedly by opposition fans from the Caucasus. The success of this event prompted a wave of optimism among right-wing extremist groups about their growing political prospects. But it also seemed to awaken the authorities to the potential threat posed by the far right.

Alexei Panin, the deputy director of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information, argues that the ultra-right phenomenon is a typical element of today’s political landscape, irrespective of state policies. “Just look at the events in Germany, France or even Norway – any country with a mix of cultures has this problem. Theoretically, you could connect it with youth or migration policy, but in practice it’s not really connected. You could point to the lack of social mobility for young people in Russia, but countries that do have social mobility still face this problem.” In contrast, Maksim Rokhminstrov, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the leading far-right mainstream political party, blames government policy for the violence of the extreme right. “The policy of Russia and other countries, including in the European Union, has been to buy off the national minorities in the state. By giving these people more social benefits than the national majorities in the countries, the government provokes distrust and inter-ethnic conflicts.” High state expenditure in Chechnya is a central topic of criticism for right-wing actors.

In a recent Levada Center report, sociologist Denis Volkov argued that the rise in nationalist activism reflects deep and growing frustration with the authorities. In his view this frustration centers on systemic corruption and the resulting lack of responsiveness on the part of the authorities to the concerns of the electorate. More specifically, the perceived failure of law enforcement bodies and judicial authorities to address crimes committed by people from the Caucasus and to protect the interests of ethnic Russians produce unrest. Participants of the protests reportedly also explained their activism as a response to the lack of opportunities for self-advancement and the dim prospects for an improvement of this situation.

The Vladimir Putin-Dmitry Medvedev administrations have been accused of encouraging nationalist ideas in order to secure political consolidation. The pro-government youth organization Nashi, set up under Putin, began to recruit nationalist skinheads to its ranks actively in 2005, in an effort to contain and redirect nationalist sentiment. These skinheads were reportedly used to break up opposition protests, including attacking activists campaigning against the construction of a new highway through the Khimki Forest north of Moscow in July of 2010. The authorities have also been linked to radical right-wing groups, such as Russian Image, which despite being banned managed to secure a prime location for a demonstration in November of 2009. At least one United Russia member of Parliament has admitted promoting youth education projects with the ultra-right group. Government attitudes seem to be changing, however. In the wake of the Manezh Square unrest, 2,000 gang members were arrested. The government has also moved to ban ultra-right groups. The controversial 2002 law against extremism has been used to ban several right wing organizations, including the prominent Slavic Union, and most recently the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). Both organizations enjoy relatively large support and have been responsible for racist attacks. An increase in convictions in prominent racist murder cases has also contributed to the drop in attacks. The most high-profile case was the sentencing of Yevgeny Tikhonov, a founding member of Russian Image, to life imprisonment for the January 2009 murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. In May members of ultra-right groups Lincoln 88 in St. Petersburg and the White Legion in Dzerzhinsk were convicted for killings.

According to Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center, the leadership is trying to contain nationalist activism, but has a difficult balancing act to perform. “The Russian demographic crisis means the country needs migrant labor, but this brings the risk of ethnic conflict,” she said. Government rejection of other forms of independent social activism is also part of the problem. “The government’s drive for control has entailed distrust of any independent source of authority, so it hasn’t supported societal organizations that could help to deal with this problem, which, after all, lies in the consciousness of society at large, and which cannot be resolved through formal politics alone.” The leading ultra-right groups, such as DPNI, the Slavic Union and the Russian Social Movement (ROD), on the other hand, are trying to avoid total marginalization and to capitalize on the nationalist gains of last December’s unrest to win seats at this year’s parliamentary elections. The groups have looked to integrate into a new overarching united nationalist front. The Sova Center has reported that from February onward, three separate integration projects developed. The most significant of these was led by DPNI and the Slavic Union, and resulted in the formation in April of the new Ethnopolitical Association – Russians, whose membership was based mainly on the organizations that participated in the Russian March. In April, three minor far-right parties signed an agreement to form a coalition under the name “Our Motherland.”

The political impact of these projects will be limited, however. The fact that the major groups behind the Ethnopolitical Association – Russians are officially classed as extremist is a barrier to legitimacy. Also, while some leaders are totally unfamiliar to the public, others are (accurately) seen as neo-Nazis, and are thus not acceptable to the wider electorate. The absence of substantive policy programs among these groups, and their lack of access to influential media resources, such as television, will also limit their impact. There is a major gap between the older generation of the far right, which is interested in legal politics, and the younger generation which continues to reject systemic politics in favor of street war. The failure of these groups – like that of their democratic opponents – either to find their own niche in the political system or to attract mainstream political party support will ensure that core conflicts of interest within the state are not resolved through politics. The irresponsible stance of the authorities toward nationalism in the context of high labor migration, coupled with the indifference of the government and systemic opposition to grass-roots social concerns (whatever their nature) will ensure that social frustrations continue to find their expression in popular unrest and in racial hatred.
© Russia Profile



29/7/2011- When the English Defense League sprang to life two years ago, it had fewer than 50 members — a rough-and-tumble bunch of mostly white guys shouting from a street corner about what they viewed as uncontrolled Muslim immigration. Now, the far-right group mentioned by confessed Norway gunman Anders Behring Breivik as an inspiration says its ranks have swollen to more than 10,000 people, a spectacular rise its leaders attribute to the immense global power of Facebook and other social networking sites. "I knew that social networking sites were the way to go," EDL leader Stephen Lennon told The Associated Press. "But to say that we inspired this lunatic to do what he did is wrong. We've never once told our supporters its alright to go out and be violent." A Facebook page under Breivik's name was taken down shortly after the attacks last week. A Twitter account under his name had only one Tweet, on July 17, loosely citing English philosopher John Stuart Mill: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests." Norwegian investigators have pored through data on Breivik's computer and say they now believe he was acting alone. They have also said they haven't found any links of concern between Breivik and far right British groups such as the EDL.

In addition to Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, the Internet hosts thousands of forums for far-left, far-right and other extremist groups. In Germany alone, far-right groups ran some 1,000 websites and 38 online radio stations as of late last year with many aimed at recruiting followers. Social networking sites, complete with politically charged music, are particularly drawing younger audiences who increasingly get their information outside of traditional media. Extremists "still favor online chat platforms — often with several hundred participants — but they are increasingly turning to social media," said Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which called the danger of recruitment "considerable." Intelligence and law enforcement officials have mixed feelings about the sites. On one hand, they recognize the potential for recruiting groups or individuals into violent movements. On the other, the sites allow officials to track and catch perpetrators. Germany's interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, told local media this week that he's more worried about extremists who go underground and "radicalize in secret."

Most agree that the most violent criminals often give little to no clear warning of the deadly acts they are about to commit, and that sometimes it's difficult to know when a person is simply boasting or whether their online activity suggests they could become killers. What's undeniable is the social media's power to bring together people with like-minded views. "Fifty years ago, if you believed that the Earth was populated by spies from Jupiter, it would have taken you quite some time to find someone else who shared the same belief," said Bob Ayers, a London-based former U.S. intelligence official. "That's not the case today. Social networking sites have changed the mathematics of things, and with that change, comes both pros and cons." Several of the email addresses to which Breivik sent his 1,516-page manifesto hours before the Oslo bombing matched Facebook profiles of people flaunting neo-Nazi or ultra-nationalist symbols. Those profiles, in turn, were set up to connect with like-minded people. One apparently Italian addressee — whose profile picture shows a swastika, the SS-symbol, and a skull — linked to Facebook groups representing "Fascist Music," the biography of former Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, as well as firearms.

His list of 462 "friends" showed several people with similar profiles, including some with the symbols or illustrations of the Knights Templar, a group that Breivik said he joined after meeting with a group of right-wing men in London. Another addressee, showing off his pumped up torso and shaved head, lists the anti-immigration British National Party as his political views. The British National Party, which won its first seat in European parliamentary elections last year, recently encouraged its members to use social media outlets. It even suggested that supporters use hashtags such as (hash)nationalist and (hash)BNP — techniques designed to capture a larger audience on a specific topic. "Social networking is an important way of keeping in touch with the British National Party, and taking small, easy actions to promote our fight for our identity and culture," the BNP said on its site. "It's just one way you can make a difference and show you care about the cause we all believe in." The group recommended its supporters post pro-nationalist quotes on Facebook to inspire friends to take action.

Some analysts say that although it's clear social media plays an important role in strengthening the far-right's sense of identity and solidarity, it's too early to say how much Facebook and Twitter have helped contribute to extremist violence. "The fact that we have more blogs, more online forums, doesn't mean we have a greater risk of terrorism," said Matthew Goodwin, a politics lecturer who recently published a book on the far right in Britain. "Even if they hold radical, extreme views, it doesn't mean they're pro-violence." Facebook says it relies on its community to police the site and usually only steps in when individuals or groups are inciting violence or hate. It would not comment on whether it was cooperating with law enforcement agencies looking into the Norway massacre. "Facebook has a team of professionals that removes content that violates our policies, which includes content that's hateful, makes actionable threats, or includes nudity and/or pornography," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes.

Daniel Hodges, a spokesman for Searchlight, a UK magazine that campaigns against far-right extremism, said the Internet has allowed "all sorts of appalling viewpoints" to be read by anyone. "How many people over the world today have now read Breivik's manifesto?" he said. The Internet often lets groups like the EDL come across as more powerful than they really are, he said. "(The Internet) allows them to reach their membership relatively speedily, relatively anonymously. It enables them to give a perception of a significant critical mass. But many far right activists live online, not in the real world," Hodges said. During a recent British election, the BNP suffered from a lack of grassroots support on the ground, even though its website received massive online traffic.

The definition of what counts as hate speech also varies from one country to another, and in the U.S. much of it is protected under the First Amendment. Denying the Holocaust, for example, is illegal in many European countries but not in the U.S. U.S. laws also protect Internet companies from being held responsible for the content on their sites. Rather than automatically take down pages that are in the gray area, some civil libertarians think it's better for social media sites to "err on the side of caution" and let the community handle it. "Facebook and social media in general tend to be very self-correcting," said Jillian York, director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties group in San Francisco. "A lot of times you see people who oppose the hate speech taking over the (hate) groups. That tends to be more effective than taking the page down."

The Czech Republic's counterintelligence service called the Internet the "No. 1" propaganda tool for extremists in their terrorism report last year. "There is a significant increase in activities of far right extremists in social networking sites, especially on Facebook. In connection with that, a relatively new phenomenon has appeared of groups which are joined, besides the extremists, also by common citizens ... As a result, the extremist views are becoming popular and spread among the public." Germany viewed the threat in a similar way. "The use of the Internet has become a fixture for German right-wing extremists in spreading their ideology, preparing their activities, campaigns and other events as well as the communication with their followers and sympathizers," Germany's domestic intelligence agency said in its latest report published earlier this month. Lennon, meanwhile, may find himself spending even more time in the virtual far-right world. The 28-year-old newlywed with a handful of missing teeth is banned from going anywhere near protests. He also claims to have had his assets frozen pending a police investigation. Despite the setbacks, Lennon said his group is growing — and even moving beyond the need for social media. "We'll keep talking to people about what the EDL stands for, but we don't actually need places like Facebook anymore. We've already built our network and it's growing."
© The Associated Press


28/7/2011- Facebook, citing free speech, has rejected a request by Holocaust survivors to remove some pages that espouse Holocaust denial. “We think it's important to maintain consistency in our policies, which don't generally prohibit people from making statements about historical events, no matter how ignorant the statement or how awful the event,” the popular social networking site said in response to a letter from Holocaust survivors dated July 8. Survivors and relatives of Holocaust victims wrote Facebook asking that the site change its policies permitting Holocaust denial before their aging generation is gone. The 21 survivors who signed the letter listed their concentration camps, ghettos and other Holocaust experiences below their names. “We, the undersigned, are Holocaust Survivors who saw our parents, children and loved ones brutally murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust,” the letter begins. “We are writing to you to protest Facebook’s policy that categorizes Holocaust denial as 'free speech,' rather than the shameless, cynical, and hateful propaganda that it is.”

The letter goes on to point out that not only are the Holocaust-denial sites offensive and hateful, but also could negatively influence scores of people due to Facebook’s popularity and accessibility. “By allowing this hate propaganda on Facebook, you are exposing the public and, in particular, youth to the anti-Semitism which fueled the Holocaust,” it says. The survivors who signed the letter are volunteers at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles who speak there and at its Museum of Tolerance. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center's associate dean, criticized Facebook’s policy on Holocaust denial. "A review of denial sites currently active on Facebook confirms that it is not mere speech but that it constitutes at its core a platform for bigotry and hatred of Jews, dead and alive," said Cooper, who briefs online companies such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo on digital hate and terrorism. He added, “We will continue to urge Facebook officials to reflect on the pain and suffering their policy is causing victims of the Shoah. For these aging heroes, every posting by deniers labels them, not victims of history's greatest crime, but liars and thieves.”
© JTA News



26/7/2011- The health of Roma migrants in France has deteriorated in the past year as repeated destructions of their camps has made access to medical care more difficult, a French charity group said. A year after President Nicolas Sarkozy called for illegal gypsy camps to be dismantled, about 2.5 percent of people living in Roma camps have tuberculosis, Francois Corty, head of French operations at Medecins du Monde, said in an interview. A few years ago the figure was close to the overall French average of 0.03 percent of the population with TB, he said. Thirty-eight percent of Roma living in camps in France have a vaccination card, and only 8 percent are fully up to date with all their required vaccinations, Medecins du Monde said in a study released today. Sarkozy, after a riot last July by itinerant workers who were not Roma, called for police to dismantle at least half of the illegal nomad camps in France. According to the Interior Ministry, three-quarters of the 741 illegal camps existing a year ago have been dismantled. In the Lyon region, 43 camps with 900 people were demolished last year, Corty said. Some families in the vaccination study in the Paris region had to move nine times last year because of police raids, he said.

‘Deliberate Policy’
“There has been a deliberate policy of discouraging people from staying in France by destroying their lodgings,” Olivier Bernard, president of Medecins du Monde, said at a press conference in Paris today. “These repeated expulsions break any ability of local associations to ensure health care and schooling.” The Interior Ministry denied it tries to disrupt access to social services. “We seek to apply the law in a humane way that shows respect to the dignity of people living in difficult situations,” spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said in a telephone interview. About 15,000 Roma live in France and just fewer than 10,000 are expelled each year back to their place of birth, generally Romania or Bulgaria. While those figures have been steady for 10 years, the number of camp destructions has “exploded” this past year, Bernard said. Seventy percent of Roma in France under the age of two have received the DPT vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, which is obligatory in both France and Romania and is generally administered at two months. While 90 percent of the French are vaccinated against measles, only 22 percent of Roma children younger than two are, the study said.

On May 19, police dismantled a camp near Paris a day before a vaccination campaign planned by local authorities and Medecins du Monde, Corty said. Four inhabitants of the camp had TB, he said. While Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, their citizens need permits to work in France until 2014.
© Bloomberg



A Swedish neo-Nazi movement conducted a recruitment drive at Kivik's annual fair in southern Sweden last week. "Unacceptable" according to the organizers, who have promised to tighten security for next year.

27/7/2011- "This is absolutely not something we want to be associated with," Kivik fair organizer Tony Andreasson told The Local on Wednesday. The Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen - SMR) spent around three hours at the market, dealing out flyers and selling its newspaper "Nationellt Motstånd" (National Resistance). "They must have registered under another name. That is the only explanation. We have had trouble with groups like this before," Andreasson said. The group, which has been classified by the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) as "Sweden's greatest internal threat", boasts of the success of its recruitment drive on its homepage saying that "several debates" were held with fairgoers. "The activists... made contact with one person who wanted to join the freedom fight," the group wrote. Kivik fair is an annual event with a fairground and arund 1,000 market stalls selling produce from the region and elsewhere. The fair attracts more than 100,000 visitors per year. Andreasson told The Local that two guards will be employed before next year's fair to ensure that the occasion is kept free from neo-Nazi groups. "We are the people who decide over Kivik fair. We want to have a serious family market just as we have done for the past 25 years," he said. The Local reported last week that SMR's newspaper had been reported for hate speech after it allowed a reader comment containing racial slurs to remain on the site.
© The Local - Sweden



29/7/2011- The Labour party (PvdA) is poised to adopt a new get tough policy towards deliquent youth with a minority background, the Telegraaf reports on Friday, quoting an email by the party's top strategist. The policy is outlined in a leaked email and has been devised by Pieter Paul Slikker over several months, the paper says. The party includes 'special attention for the problems caused by immigrants'. 'To put it strongly: we are not going back to the time of multi-culti tea-drinking,' the email states. This would appear to be a direct attack on party leader Job Cohen, who was known for his conciliatory approach while mayor of Amsterdam, and was attacked by right-wing parties for drinking tea with imams.

Internal document
The Telegraaf says Labour MPs have refused to comment on the email, saying it refers to an internal party document. Support for Labour has gone down in the polls since it took 30 seats at the last general election, just one fewer than the right-wing Liberal VVD which now leads the government. The Telegraaf says the new strategy appears to be an answer to Labour's inability to win the argument against the coalition, which is propped up by Geert Wilders' anti-Islam PVV. Cohen has also come under fire for not being a strong debator.
© The Dutch News



Right-wing sympathies and recession have led a small town to fly in the face of overall EU ethos

29/7/2011- The heated debate over immigration in the Netherlands took a new turn last night when the small town of Vaals in the southeast decided to refuse right of residence to EU nationals without a job or enough assets to support themselves. The new regulation, which will come into effect in September, has been sparked by the fact that, of the 300 people living on social welfare in this town of 10,000 inhabitants, 40 per cent are EU nationals, according to statistics from the town council.
Vaals is in the province of Limburg, on the borders of Germany and Belgium, and ironically just 23km from where the Maastricht Treaty was signed in February 1992, leading to a single currency and paving the way for EU enlargement.

However, Limburg province was also the scene of the largest single victory for right-wing politician Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) in the 2010 general election. This catapulted the PVV into third place nationally, ahead of the Labour Party for the first time. It was an extraordinary result. Having polled just 10 per cent of the Limburg province votes in 2006, the PVV more than doubled its following, taking 26.9 per cent of the vote and becoming the single largest party in many electoral districts. It was a major regional embarrassment for the Christian Democrats (CDA), who had traditionally been supported by the province’s predominantly Catholic population – and who had now been relegated to fourth place. “Coming after the global economic downturn and the collapse of the banks, there was a lot of disaffection with the mainstream parties in the run-up to the 2010 election,” recalls political scientist Prof Paul Nieuwenburg of Leiden University. “Many people were angry. Almost everyone was affected to some degree or other. There were a lot of protest voters. Traditional allegiances had broken down. That’s one reason why Wilders was so successful, without much warning,” he told The Irish Times.

The root cause in Limburg was – as ever – the economy. Once a flourishing coal mining area, its industrial activity has declined. Limburg now has the worst rate of joblessness in an otherwise prosperous country which has both the lowest unemployment and the lowest youth unemployment in the euro zone. As a result, Limburg feels neglected – and unemployed foreigners, irrespective of nationality, are not welcome in Vaals. For local alderman, Jean-Paul Kompier, the local statistics tell a story he believes is both economically and socially untenable: nine out of every 100 people who arrive in Vaals planning to settle there permanently apply immediately for social welfare benefits and have no other means of support. That, he says, is proportionately higher even than in Rotterdam – power base of the late Pim Fortuyn, the anti-immigration campaigner assassinated during the 2002 election – which is regarded as an immigration hotspot. Kompier made specific mention of Polish and Romanian immigrants, whom he maintained tended to have greater difficulty finding jobs because of their typically limited knowledge of the Dutch language. And he said that, because Vaals was now spending some €400,000 a year on social welfare payments it could ill-afford, the town council had decided to use a little-known EU guideline to allow it to deny residency even to EU nationals who could not support themselves financially.

While this is a decision which may make financial sense to Vaals town council, internal EU immigration is an issue already causing serious political tensions between the Dutch and Polish governments, particularly since Warsaw took over the EU presidency on July 1st. Dutch officials now admit they seriously underestimated the number of Poles who would migrate to Holland following the accession of the former Eastern bloc states in 2004. They originally said about 15,000 – but latest estimates put the real number at some 13 times that. Minister for social affairs and employment Henk Kamp recently recommended expelling EU migrants coming from newer member states who have been unemployed for more than three months – and cutting benefits for those who failed a Dutch test. At the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Polish prime minister Donald Tusk rejected that, saying, “We cannot protect our community by creating more barriers inside the community.” But Tusk’s view was ridiculed by Barry Madlener, an MEP for Geert Wilders’s PVV: “He doesn’t seem to realise what is going on. We don’t want jobless Poles, Romanian beggars and people from North Africa or Turkey in Europe . . .” So while the unedifying point-scoring continues, the town council of Vaals was left yesterday to make its own decision. And it did – in a political vacuum which many analysts argue plays only to the strengths of the right wing. “We used to be a tolerant country, but not anymore,” says 37-year-old Krijn Polder, wiping down a restaurant table in Vaals town centre. “It makes me ashamed. But still, someone has to decide.”
© Irish Times


POPULISM - HANDLE WITH CARE (Netherlands, opinion)

Although Anders Breivik was solely responsible for the atrocities in Norway, his far-fetched ideas clearly owe much to a culture of populism. A Dutch historian argues that the events which took place on 22 July ought to be considered in the context of political trends in Europe.
By Jan Dirk Snel

26/7/2011- In the aftermath of the horrific attacks perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway, there has been heated debate on the issue of his links to ideological circles. Following previous atrocities, like the murder of Theo van Gogh [the Dutch film maker assassinated in 2004 by an Islamic extremist], some commentators had no scruples about attributing blame to the wider Islamic community. By the same token, it is worth wondering to what extent the proponents of the new right — an ideology that clearly influenced Breivik — have been implicated by his actions? Hardly anyone is willing to share or otherwise legitimate Breivik’s justification for the massacre on 22 July. He was solely responsible for his actions, and only those who share the bulk of his ideas and attempt to justify or explain the attacks from an ideological point of view can be said to support what he has done. This same observation also applied to the assassination of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri, who was largely isolated by his violent ideology. However, we should nonetheless bear in mind the context of this latest phenomenon. Breivik’s justification of his atrocities is based on the notion that Europe is threatened by multiculturalism and Islam. His 1,500-page manifesto 2083—A European Declaration of Independence is full of theories that have been widely circulated in the milieu of the new right, which in the Netherlands, is represented by the PVV. Breivik quotes Geert Wilders [the leader of the populist PVV] who has claimed that Moroccans intend to colonise the Netherlands and subjugate the Dutch people. Other members of the PVV have also waxed lyrical about the dangers of “cultural Marxism.”

Those who deform reality should not be taken seriously
Theirs is a deformed vision of reality, which has nothing to do with modern social conditions. And it was on the basis of this vision of the world that Breivik drew his violent conclusions. He is certainly responsible. However, the fact that he has brought together so many fantastic ideas says a lot about the current mentality in Europe — and in particular in the Netherlands, where a political movement that circulates such ideas is associated with the minority government which it has agreed to support in parliament. Breivik is solely responsible for his violent acts, but many others share his mendacious and fantastic vision of the world. And these people should now be taken to task. The circulation of lies and the creation of false monsters is not without consequences. Those who deform reality should not be taken seriously — as if theirs was just another voice in the debate on the future of society. They must be attacked with rigorous argument. They should be told to stop deceiving people. This is the approach that we must adopt with the Dutch populists who are propagating the ideology of the new right. Politics is not a game. The time has come for a moment of truth.

Put the brakes on politicking
"An excess of politics is a danger to politics," warns Maroun Labaki in Le Soir. The columnist takes issue with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who announced that the carnage in Norway "should be met with a shared European response to defend democracy" and a spokesman for the French Socialist Party who lambasted "the ideology of the clash of civilisations and cultural incompatibility" which has fueled "hatred and terrorism." Labaki continues: "There is no denying the importance of political debate. However, politicking only serves to diminish the credibility of those who indulge in it." We should not lose sight of the fact that "one man” was responsible for the events in Norway. “The island of Utøya was not attacked by a Facist militia." "We should should be seriously concerned by the far right and the populist right. Both represent a danger to democracy, especially the latter with its simplistic arguments that have contaminated the traditional right and public debate." However, that should not be a pretext "for throwing reason to the winds."

This article originally appeared in the Dutch newspaper Trouw
© Press Europe


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