Obama Should Address Far-Right Gains During Europe Trip
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged President Obama to speak out against hatred and discrimination during his visit to Europe this week. The president’s trip comes at a time of tension in Europe, with many far-right parties scoring gains in recent European elections and the European Union adopting sanctions against Russia for its actions in Crimea.
“As the United States and Europe commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when America and Europe joined together to fight fascism, President Obama should make the case that the rise of nonfascist parties on the European continent is a threat to national security, economic growth and social stability, even when those parties do not hold a majority in any European country,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Overtly neo-Nazi parties have just won seats in the European Parliament. The American president should discuss how to counter the rising anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, and homophobic ideologies that are dividing European societies and threatening the European Union itself.”
Human Rights First urges Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who will join the president in Europe, to address these issues this week during public statements, as well as in their private diplomatic meetings with other senior officials this week. Specifically, the organization recommends the following steps:
- Obama should use his June 6 speech commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day to reaffirm the deep bonds that were forged when Americans and Europeans fought together to defeat Nazi Germany. He should emphasize the need for constant vigilance to make sure neo-fascist parties do not rise on the European continent again and make the case that the popularity of such parties could threaten national security, economic growth and social stability, even when those parties do not hold a majority in any European country.
- As the leader of a nation of refugees and migrants, as well as the first African-American president, Obama is uniquely qualified to speak out about the destructive nature of racism, antisemitism, homophobia, as well as hate crimes in all their forms. He should explore how the United States and the European Union can cooperate to denounce and combat these manifestations of hatred.
- Obama and Kerry should meet with leaders of vulnerable minority populations and argue publicly that the Transatlantic alliance is most successful when countries and communities work together to advance our shared values of respect for universal human rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law.
- In private meetings, Obama and Kerry should discuss concrete steps that can be taken to enhance protection for refugees, migrants, and minorities in Europe who are particular targets of hate. The United States should emphasize that it understands the increased burdens being placed on European countries that are obligated to guarantee the human rights and humane treatment for every person on their territory, regardless of the public’s views on immigration policy, and explore ways the US. government can help.
Human Rights First researchers recently returned from a research trip to Greece and Hungary, where they investigated the human rights implications of the rise of far-right parties. Many, but not all, far-right parties gained strength in the European Parliament elections held May 22-25, led by Marine Le Pen of the Front National
, who won the French elections with a record 25 percent of the vote. Germany’s neo-Nazi party won a seat for the first time, while anti-immigrant parties also advanced in Austria, Germany and Greece, setting the stage for these groups to potentially form an extreme-right voting bloc in the European Parliament. However, support for ultra-right parties decreased in Italy, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, while Bulgaria’s virulently anti-Semitic Attaka party virtually collapsed.
In Greece, the neo-Nazi, xenophobic and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn Party for the first time won three seats in the European Parliament in Brussels, with 9.39 percent of the vote. The Greek government is currently prosecuting the party’s leaders for running a criminal organization that allegedly directed a wave of brutal attacks on migrants and at least two murders. In Hungary, 15 percent of Hungarian voters supported the anti-Semitic fascist Jobbik Party.
“The troubling gains made by far-right parties in Europe are not unique to that continent. Anti-Semitic violence appears to be on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent weeks, seven people were murdered in attacks on Jewish sites in Kansas City and in Brussels. President Obama should use this trip to engage his European counterparts on the best strategies to address this trend and fortify the world’s resolve to fight fascism and discrimination in all forms.”