European police neglecting right-wing extremism

An online platform set up so that Europe's police forces can exchange information on right-wing extremism is "not being used much", says a recent report by the EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC).

This is despite the rise to prominence of far-right parties and movements across Europe - in Greece, Hungary, France, Germany, Sweden, and elsewhere.

Europol, the EU's policing agency, hosts a 'Europol Platform for Experts' on right-wing extremism which is supposed to be used by police officers to "to share knowledge, best practices and non-personal data on crime." [1]

The Counter-Terrorism Coordinator's Report, published at the end of November 2014 and covering the period from December 2012 to mid-October 2014, says:

"The EPE facilitates contact and exchange of best practice between Member States' experts. The platform meets as required. For the time being it is not being used much by Member States and Europol." [2]

Europol failed to provide any further details on the use of the platform - for example, how many meetings it has held and how many messages have been exchanged through it - despite repeated requests from Statewatch.

The CTC's also said that Europol produces a report every six months on right-wing extremism, but that the last "overview of the violent RWE [right-wing extremism] phenomenon in Europe" was produced in August 2013. Europol also failed to provide any further details on these six-monthly reports.

The only further comment in the CTC's report is that: "The right-wing extremist scene remains of concern."

In January 2014 Cecilia Malmström, at the time EU Home Affairs Commissioners, did not think that right-wing extremism was simply a matter "of concern" - she told a Swedish radio station that it was "the biggest threat" facing the EU. [3]

In many countries there are long-standing allegations of leniency, if not outright support, from the police for the far-right.

In Greece it was estimated that in the May 2012 elections "more than half of all police officers" voted for Golden Dawn. [4]

In Hungary, a 2009 newsletter published by an organisation called 'The trade union of Hungarian police officers prepared for action' contained the following statement:

"Given our current situation, anti-Semitism is not just our right, but it is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover, and we must prepare for armed battle against the Jews." [5]

In Germany, when it was established in 2011 that a series of long-unsolved murders of migrants were carried by the far-right National Socialist Underground, the country's "police and domestic intelligence services faced withering criticism for ingrained bias by associating terrorism only with the far-left or Islamists, not right-wing extremists." [6]

In the UK in 2011, the police were "accused of underestimating the threat from the English Defence League (EDL)" after the police's 'National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism', said that they "were not extreme right wing as a group". [7]

Some cooperative efforts are taking place. In May 2014 an EU-funded 'Expert Meeting on Right-Wing Extremism' was held in Germany, with representatives from 25 EU Member States and Switzerland present. According to the German government:

"The event promoted a Europe-wide exchange of experiences with a view to identifying the development of new phenomena and to learning of successful approaches to countering them. No special arrangements or agreements were made." [8]

Europol's own work is based largely on information supplied by Member States and has been criticised for underestimating the issue of right-wing extremism. The agency's 2012 TE-SAT (Terrorism Situation and Trend) report was examined in a March 2013 analysis published by Statewatch, which noted:

"Compared to the rest of the report, the section on right-wing extremism is understated and the evidence (possession of weapons or exchanges between Internet websites) is not strung together in the same way [as in the sections on left-wing and separatist terrorism] to criminalise communities or movements as 'terrorist' or 'violent extremist'. It stresses that several right-wing extremists who were arrested 'were acting alone'… 'Violent attacks appear to be, in most cases, the result of an accidental encounter or a reciprocal provocation.'"

Europol's report failed to note numerous "stabbings, attacks and ambushes in which left-wingers or migrants were seriously injured and social and cultural centres damaged." [9]

With Europe's far-right seeking to capitalise on the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the more recent attacks in Denmark, it remains to be seen whether Europe's police forces will start paying more attention.

Further reading

[1] Europol, 'Europol Platform for Experts'
[2], p.16
[3] 'Extreme right 'biggest threat to EU': Malmström', The Local, 14 January 2014
[4] A. Makris, 'More Than Half of Police Officers Voted For Neo-nazi Party', Greek Reporter, 11 May 2012
[5] Yehuda Lahav, ''Proud Hungarians must prepare for war against the Jews'', Hareetz, 1 June 2009
[6] 'Has Germany learned lessons of NSU failures', The Local, 27 August 2014
[7] Vikram Dodd and Matthew Taylor, 'Muslims criticise Scotland Yard for telling them to engage with EDL', The Guardian, 2 September 2011
[8] 'Cooperation and projects by European police forces in 2014', January 2014, p.14
[9] Yasha Maccanico, 'TESAT report shows decrease in terrorist activity in 2011 but national police forces see a continuing threat', October 2012, p.8

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