Bid To Outlaw Nazi Symbols
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Germany yesterday moved to outlaw denial of the Holocaust, the parading of Nazi symbols, and racist speech across Europe, using a meeting of EU interior and justice ministers to call for jail terms of up to three years for the offences.
At a meeting in Dresden in eastern Germany, Brigitte Zypries, the German justice minister, demanded that Holocaust denial and the sporting of Nazi symbols be criminalised across the EU.
A European commission official noted that had the practices been outlawed earlier, Prince Harry would have been in breach of the law in 2005 when he was photographed in a Wehrmacht uniform with a Nazi swastika armband.
Europe-wide criminalisation of Holocaust denial would also have meant that David Irving, the discredited British historian recently released from a Vienna jail after being found guilty of denying the Holocaust, could have been imprisoned in Britain.
The proposals from the German government are supported by Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner for justice, said a commission spokeswoman, although she added that detailed definition of the proposed offences should be left to EU countries to decide individually and that there would be guarantees that "personal freedoms will not be violated".
Another commission official said that Sweden, for example, whose constitution guarantees absolute freedom of speech, could be granted an opt-out if the EU-wide criminalisation was agreed.
Germany has just started a six-month presidency of the EU and is pushing strongly to outlaw statements and actions trivialising Nazi crimes and the Holocaust. "We believe there are limits to freedom of expression," said Mrs Zypries.
The European commission says that in a time of growing Islamophobia, racism, and hostility to foreigners across Europe, a decision to criminalise hate speech and praise of Nazi crimes would send a strong signal. But attempts to ban Holocaust denial across the EU have failed on two previous occasions. It is not clear whether the new German campaign will succeed where earlier attempts have failed.
Berlin also sought to expand Europe-wide police powers, calling for the sharing of DNA, fingerprinting and car registration information among the 27 countries of the EU and for greater transnational powers for Europol, the Hague-based European police agency, in tackling major crime.
At the moment, Europol, which some see as a fledgling European FBI, is empowered to deal only with organised crime on a transnational scale, but the German proposals would expand that scope to include all "serious" cross-border crime within the EU.
Max-Peter Ratzel, the Europol director, embraced the German proposals, saying it was sensible to expand the genetic and fingerprinting information. At the moment the countries participating in the scheme share national police access to car registration data banks and are also obliged to supply DNA and fingerprinting information on suspects to other national police forces when requested. "Our aim is to create a modern police information network for more effective crime control throughout Europe," said Wolfgang Sch?uble, the German interior minister.
The German government, outlining its aims for the six-month EU presidency, declared that "a priority is to strengthen Europol ... extending the scope of the organisation's responsibilities."
The British government has habitually been reluctant to accede to expansion of Europol's powers. The Irish and some of the new east European members are also sceptical.
European ultra-nationalists and extreme rightwingers yesterday mustered enough MPs in the European parliament to form their first formal parliamentary caucus, a move that will increase their profile, lend them greater parliamentary speaking time, make available EU funding, and probably net them prominent positions in parliamentary committees.
The Identity-Tradition-Sovereignty caucus numbers 20 MEPs, and includes members from Belgium, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, one Briton formerly with the UK Independence party, and Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian fascist dictator.
The caucus is led by the No 2 in France's National Front and masterminded by Andreas M?lzer, an Austrian extreme right ideologue who used to advise J?rg Haider, the Austrian politician who gained notoriety as Europe's first "yuppie fascist".
Social democrat and liberal MEPs demanded the rest of the parliament boycott contact with the new caucus.
So the Germans want to impose their thinking and attitudes across the rest of Europe because of their guilt over the last world war. Is their a word in German for irony?