News from Western Europe, Wednesday 30th January 2013

Events

Cecilia Malmstrom – European Commission blog: Together against terror and extremism. ‘In September of 2011, I launched the Radicalisation Awareness Network, or RAN, as a response to the ever-growing prevalence of violent extremism in Europe. Individuals such as Anders Behring Breivik in Norway, Mohamed Merah in France or the Stockholm suicide bomber are all examples of violent extremists who committed acts of terrorism. These isolated individuals base their actions on extreme right or left-wing convictions, or religiously motivated extremism, and they exist within our societies. However, around Europe, there is a wealth of knowledge about how to discover such individuals, and hopefully halt them before they can commit acts of violence.’

Europe

EU observer: Political parties drive hate in EU, commission says. ‘Far-right political discourse is feeding hatred throughout the EU and could harm the European project in the upcoming 2014 European Parliament elections, says the European Commission.

Disparaging words geared towards minority groups like Roma, Muslims, Jews and immigrants are becoming more common as elected officials attempt to woo a growing number of the voting electorate rooted in populist movements.’

Belgium

De Standaard: On 29th January, De Standaard started a debate over whether the party Vlaams Belang is racist.

Le Soir: The President of the Vlaams Belang tries to redeem his party.” I believe that we should not build our position in terms of migration against people but against other parties.We conduct a political struggle, not a fight against people. I myself have always been attentive and insofar as the party was able to give the impression that we took in some people, I want to apologize for it, with confidence, ” 

Annemans denies that his party could exclude certain groups of the population says it has rejected the plan by 70 points against immigration’

France

France24: Roma children refused access to Lyon schools. ‘A group of Roma (Gypsy) children in southeast France have been forced to attend classes at a police station after local schools refused to take them in, anti-racism campaigners have complained.

Their “school” is on the second floor of a police station at Saint-Fons, a suburb of Lyon. The 20 children, aged between six and 12, are all taught by one teacher.

They are not fed at lunchtime, as are all other pupils at French state schools, so at noon every day they have to walk 1.5 km back to the shanty town where some 100 Roma have been camped near the city bypass.

“It goes against all the principles of integration,” Jean-Philippe, a local campaigner for anti-racism group MRAP, told FRANCE 24. “It is a simple case of discrimination and stigmatisation of an ethnic minority.”’

RT: France to expel radical imams to tackle ‘global Islamic jihad’. ‘Paris says it will deport a number of radical religious imams to tackle extremism in Europe and “global jihadism”. French Interior Minister warned the eviction would happen “in the coming days”.

“We will expel all these imams, all these foreign preachers who denigrate women, who hold views that run counter to our values and who say there is a need to combat France,” AFP quoted foreign minister Manuel Valls as saying.

Speaking at the conference in Brussels, he stressed that the move will affect “Salafist groupings, who are involved in the political process, whose aim is to monopolize cultural associations, the school system.”

Radical Islam, the key topic at an international conference in Belgium, is a pressing issue for France especially after Mohamed Merah the al-Qaeda inspired murderer, dubbed the Scooter Killer, shot dead three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren, and a rabbi in March 2012.’

Time: Mali’s War: After Surging Into the Islamist-Held North, Will France Retreat? ‘The surprisingly rapid advance by French-backed Malian troops to reclaim major towns held by jihadi militants in northern Mali appears to signal the end of Paris’ lead role in the conflict. Yet even as French leaders cheered the news of Timbuktu’s returning to Franco-Malian control on Jan. 28, questions remain about whether France can really step back into a secondary role and nudge African troops to lead the battle against Islamist fighters in the vast northern part of Mali.’

Germany

Der Spiegel: No-Go Zones: Map Will Detail Germany’s Neo-Nazi Hotspots. ‘A German nonprofit organization is set to launch an interactive map that will show where neo-Nazi activities are concentrated across the country. Designed as a research tool, it also has relevance for the broader public, who may use it in a manner similar to crime map websites.

Police crime map websites, which allow the public to key in a postal code for a snapshot of criminal goings-on in their districts, have been hailed as a useful tool in giving people a voice on how their areas are policed and improving police accountability. In Germany, a Berlin-based nonprofit organization is using the same principle to create an overview of neo-Nazi activity across the country, although for now, its purpose is solely academic.’

Deutsche Welle: Islam takes another step to German recognition. ‘Bremen is the third German state to recognize Islamic organizations as official religious bodies. Holidays, funerals and pastoral care will be regulated by state contracts. Other states will likely follow suit.

For Erol Pürlü, spokesman for the German Muslim coordination council, the signing of the contract with the city-state of Bremen marked a “day of joy”. Three Muslim associations were officially recognized as religious bodies. “That sends a clear signal that Islam belongs to Germany,” said Pürlü.’

The Local: Security officials warn of growing terror threat. ‘Citing a classified government report, the daily Bild said on Tuesday that the authorities were worried a radicalized individual or small group could target German interests both at home and abroad.

The paper said around 50 members of Germany’s militant Islamist scene had travelled to terrorist training camps in 2012 alone. They are thought to have received training from the terror network al-Qaeda on how to plan attacks as “autonomous cells” in Germany.

Another 100 German Islamists are estimated to have already received paramilitary training, and half of that group had returned to Germany, paper said. The classified report said the militants included many German converts to radical Islam.’

Italy

JTA: Italy’s Napolitano warns about angers of Holocaust denial. ‘Italian President Giorgio Napolitano warned against “new and persistent perils” of Holocaust denial and revisionism, including those spread on the Internet.

Speaking Tuesday at a ceremony at the Quirnale, or presidential palace, to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day, Napolitano said it was necessary “to keep up our guard, to be vigilant and to react against” these dangers.

Napolitano specifically mentioned the appearance of anti-Semitic extremist groups, such as those targeted last week in a sweep by police in Naples and other cities, and racism among militant soccer fans.’

Spain

Der Spiegel: Corruption Charges Put Madrid on Defensive. ‘New revelations about the corruption scandal that is rocking Spanish politics has put conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his party on the defensive. Voters are beginning to lose patience.

The powerful reacted the way powerful people react when they are in a tight spot. Former Prime Minister José María Aznar instructed his attorneys to sue the newspaper El País. Current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative like Aznar, threatened to sue anyone who leveled accusations at his People’s Party (PP).’

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