Germany: To ban or not to ban neo-Nazi NPD?

As there is a new effort to outlaw NPD is there a better chance that NPD will be banned this time and is it really desirable, is it a solution to problem of NPD? Read few comments.

Orkan KösemenProject Manager in charge of the Leadership-Programme for Migrant Associations, The Bertelsmann Stiftung

Upfront my summary: The outcome of the trial is completely open, not because the NPD is a neo-nazi party (everyone knows that) but because there has to be enough proof that they pose a significant threat to the democratic political system in Germany. It’s a decision of the judges if they perceive the given proof and the threat of the NPD as enough as to justify a ban of a political party. Would a ban of the NPD change anything? Yes, but very little. The whole issue of right-wing extremism in Germany can’t be narrowed down on the NPD, its part of it but it just the tip of the iceberg, nothing more and nothing less.

A bit more detail:

The first trial about the banning of the NPD was cancelled by the court before it even started the trial (2001-2003). The court has rejected the motion of the government because of reasons of judicial procedure: At that time the German security agencies heavily used informants/snitches within the NPD. The court said, that they cannot guarantee a fair and legal trial if a significant portion of the party leadership were working as informants for the government.

Afterwards the security agencies decided against abandoning their strategy of using informants, they claimed this was necessary. In the light of the current NSU-trial we all know that this sort of information gathering brought no advantage and even helped the extremists fund their network. In the new trial,all security agencies confirmed that they do not use informants in the party leadership of the NPD anymore and second, all the proof they present the court are from public sources.

The last conservative-Liberal government did not want to risk a second failure of a NPD-trial so they haven’t been part of the motion to ban the NPD. This second attempt has been started and carried out by the second parliament chamber (=the governments of the 16 Bundesländer/federal states of Germany, which include all sorts of different government coalitions, left-center-right).

The NPD is a dying party which has significant financial and inner party problems. Their membership numbers are decreasing and they lose contact to the new breed of right-wing extremism movements in Germany. But they are in two state parliaments and these two factions receive state funding for their parliamentary work which they use to uphold the party structures in the whole country.

The NPD is a threat but just one piece in the whole right-wing extremists puzzle in Germany. There are a much higher number of non-party affiliated neo-nazi hooligans and groups/networks that are violent and dangerous and try to establish domination in their local areas. Furthermore the right-wing ideology gets more and more rooted in mainstream society in particular regions where they try to infiltrate civic society and transform it according to their world view by doing community or youth work. And third, in Western Europe right-wing/nationalist populism has a much stronger political appeal than old school nazi-parties. National populist maybe don’t embrace violence as a way to achieve their political goals but their ideology shares many elements of open right-wing extremists’ hate and they racial stereotype views.

If the NPD gets banned, just a minor element of this whole puzzle gets removed. The good thing is, that public funding of this party would end. But the NPD party activists would not vanish or change their minds though. They would join one of the three other forms (violent local groups, national populists or doing community grass root work). Banning of the NPD is a good thing but it’s like just 10% of the answer to how tackle the whole problem. The other areas are where much more has to be done and where activities to counter right-wing extremism is much harder to achieve (time and effort wise).

Claudia Luzar, Institut für interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung, Universität Bielefeld

I read the treaty banning about NPD and in my opinion there are no relevant news about the NPD. Secondly the prohibition of NPD don´t give any answers how to solve the problem of right wing violence in Germany. Most of the attacks are coming from groups which are not in any political party, there are organised in “kameradschaften” or groups like the “Autonome Nationalisten”. For example the murder from the NSU were not organised in a political party and with the prohibition you couldn’t prevent none of the attacks. If you have a political party like the NPD there are the possibility to watch as a scientist, the civil society or for the police which are the topics and activities of the Neonazis. In my opinion the current treaty banning is a symbolic political answer of the Neonazi attacks without any impact.

Christian SchweigerLecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University

As far as I know it will be difficult to get a NPD ban approved by the German constitutional court which has already rejected it once. The court generally holds the freedom of expression of political opinion in high regard which it traditionally is reluctant to approve the ban of a party, as long as there is no clear evidence that it is linked to criminal or terrorist activity. It may be that the emerging grand coalition will have another go at applying for a ban of the NPD but as far as I know there are rather mixed views both inside the SPD and the CDU/CSU about this. The split is essentially between supporters of a ban who argue that the NPD has links to violent and potentially terrorist neo-nazi groups and should therefore be banned. The opponents argue that a ban would push supporters  underground, make their activities more difficult to monitor and potentially lead to the creation of more radical splinter groups. They also argue that supporters could resurface by establishing a new party or by infiltrating other right-wing parties such as the Republikaner or the Deutsche Volksunion.

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