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In the Atlantic: Europe and the Resurgent Politics of Ethnic Scapegoating

2013-01-29
The lights on Rome's fabled Colosseum went dark Sunday over Hungary's anti-Semitic one-trick pony. At the same time, Greece's Golden Dawn continues to bolster violence. After the Breivik attack and the German serial killing, the fault also lies with mainstream politicians – from Angela Merkel's wrong move to the Sarkozy legacy as a reference to do nothing. William Wheeler reports about Europe's domestic extremism problem and the work of the Athena Institute – in the Atlantic.

The full article is available on the website of the Atlantic.

Key quotes concerning Europe:

"There is this argument that democracy should be tolerant to anything," said Irene Koutelou, one of the founders of Greece's Anti-Nazi Initiative. "But democracy cannot be tolerant to stabbings. It cannot be tolerant to beatings. It cannot be tolerant to organized groups that promote violence on a racist basis." Koutelou's organization has been lobbying for more than a decade to outlaw the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, […] the onetime fringe group has become Greece's third most popular party, and Koutelou fears its leaders wants to ride the prevailing winds of anti-immigrant sentiment to become a pan-European force.

The Breivik attacks in Norway may have awoken Europeans somewhat to the danger from extremism and rising xenophobia. Still, Germans were shocked last November when it came to light that a previously unknown neo-Nazi terrorist group, the National Socialist Underground, was behind the seemingly unconnected murders of nine immigrants and a policewoman, as well as 14 bank robberies and two bombings -- all while evading the police and intelligence services for years. In July, Germany's chief of internal intelligence reported an increased risk of violence from far-right extremists.

But observers say the fault also lies with mainstream politicians, who have largely ignored the legacy of failed assimilation policies and the tensions surrounding unintegrated groups. Or, more recently, caved to the far-right.

Kristof Domina, founder of the Budapest-based Athena Institute, which tracks European extremist groups, sees German chancellor Angela Merkel's pronouncement that multiculturalism has "utterly failed" as a dangerous precedent in a country where neo-Nazi fringe groups still flourish (the Athena Institute's website documents one such group that follows a leaderless structure with 100 identified subgroups and an estimated membership of 25,000 people). "This is what we see throughout the continent," he said. "We don't have a serious debate. The issue is sidelined. Politicians do not confront it." Absent something like a European civil rights movement for marginalized groups, Domina sees the likely outcome as more episodes of Breivik-style violence.