German Elections Highlight Rise of Far Right as Kerry Travels to Europe
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to see the expected results of tomorrow’s elections in Germany as a wake-up call to the increasing power of the xenophobic platforms of the far-right in Europe. Reports indicate that Germany’s far-right party, which has argued that Germany should close its borders to all refugees, is gaining popularity and is expected to pick up seats in this weekend’s elections. Germany’s election comes as Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Paris to meet with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Human Rights First calls on Secretary Kerry to discuss ways that the United States can support both France and Germany in their efforts to combat the violent forces of hatred by protecting human rights.
“Germany is Europe’s economic and political lynchpin,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “The rise of the far-right in Germany is not a singular development. All across Europe, political parties that espouse antisemitism, xenophobia, and racism have seen their power increase and supporters have been committing hate crimes. The United States cannot afford to ignore this problem and what it could mean for our shared vision for a Europe whole, free, and at peace any longer.”
Between the influx of refugees and financial instability in Europe, Germany must deal with a volatile mix that is fueling far-right parties and groups fomenting antisemitic and anti-refugee views, all while the country struggles to halt a wave of vicious hate crimes and hold perpetrators accountable.
The past decade has seen the ascendance of several far-right political parties across Europe. These groups—many of which have been roundly criticized for their antisemitic, islamophobic, xenophobic, and/or racist rhetoric and policy proposals—have seen huge gains in recent European Parliament and national elections. Last June, far-right parties in the European Parliament announced the formation of a political group called the Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENL) Group under the leadership of France’s National Front.
Human Rights First is concerned that the ascent of extremist parties will corrode respect for the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights, and protection of minorities on which the European Union was founded, and the transatlantic alliance is based. The U.S. government should take into account the political clout of parties like Jobbik, the National Front, and Golden Dawn and the populist approaches that are fanning the fires of hatred in its strategy to combat antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and related human rights abuses in their respective countries. Some of these groups also receive support from and have promoted closer ties with Russia, for instance by receiving loans from Russia or voting against a European Parliament resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
“We have seen that when far-right parties go unchecked, they undermine Europe’s democratic institutions and its ability to deal with crises,” noted Corke. “Germany is a close ally in global conflicts, including the refugee crisis; the United States has a strong interest in working with Germany to ensure a more inclusive, tolerant society.”
For more information see Human Rights First’s fact sheets on the rise of the far-right in Germany and the European Parliament, and the organization’s recent report on France.