PARIS (Nov. 23)
The growth of far-right parties in Europe “threaten the civil and constitutional rights of certain minorities,” according to a recent report issued by the Parisbased European Center for Research and Action on Racism and Anti-Semitism.
The 130-page report, issued by the Jerusalem-based Institute of Jewish Affairs of the World Jewish Congress, assessed the influence of more than 450 extremist political groups in 35 European countries and reached the conclusion that they are increasingly becoming a part of the European political establishment.
“Europe, which believed it had gotten rid of its old evils, has reached a stage where extremists have become players” in the mainstream political process, Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary-general of the European Jewish Congress, said at a Nov. 15 news conference.
“Let’s not be mistaken on their real intentions — taking power or at least destabilizing (Europe’s political) institutions,” he added.
According to Cwajgenbaum, the report had two goals: to document the range of extremist parties in Europe and to assess the political prospects of the far right.
Noting that far-right parties “may well be in a position to influence the mainstream political agenda,” the report also found that extremists could rush in to fill a political vacuum created by “the collapse of a political system or decline of a political party.”
Jean Kahn, president of the EJC, told the news conference that political extremists were taking advantage of political freedom in an attempt to destabilize European democracies.
Kahn, who also heads a European Union committee investigating racism and xenophobia, added that some European countries have failed to crack down on the far right because of their adherence to principles of freedom of expression.
Cwajgenbaum voiced concern about the recent electoral victories of right-wing parties in Italy and Austria. “Those parties are indeed spinning a web. It is still a very fragile one, but the more they do, the more people they will catch,” he said. “This potential danger shouldn’t be overlooked.”