BRUSSELS — Though no stranger to controversy or diatribe, the European Parliament is set to usher in its first fully-fledged neo-Nazis members, from Germany and Greece.
With around 300,000 votes at the European elections the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) was expected to claim one of the country’s 96 seats in the new Parliament, in a historical ground-breaker.
A recent change in German electoral laws, scrapping all minimum thresholds, paved the way for the march into parliament of the NPD, which has 6,000 members.
It describes itself as “national socialist,” just like Germany’s Nazis in the 1930s, and is openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic so a group of German regional governments have tried to have it banned for propagating racism.
Meanwhile, with almost all ballots counted in Greece, the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party is claiming over nine percent of the vote, which would net it three seats in the 751-member Parliament.
Golden Dawn was founded in the 1980s by Nikos Michaloliakos, an open admirer of Adolf Hitler. In 2012, Michaloliakos publicly denied the responsibility of Nazis in the mass-murder of six million Jews.
By harnessing resentment over EU-driven austerity measures imposed on Greece, Golden Dawn ran third in the European vote held on Sunday, behind the Coalition of the Radical Left and the center-right New Democracy Party.
In June 2012, six of its 18 MPs in the Greek parliament, including Michaloliakos, were detained by police on charges of belonging to a criminal organisation after the killing of an anti-fascist musician.
Golden Dawn now counts 16 MPs in the Greek parliament, after two MPs left. One of those MPs now sits on the cross-benches, the other is in jail.
The leader of Germany’s Jewish community denounced the gains made by far-right parties and urged democratic forces to block their path and defend European values.
Dieter Graumann, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the extremist parties performed “shockingly well”, as feared, in Sunday’s European parliamentary vote.
Graumann pointed to France, Hungary and Greece, saying in a statement: “Right-wing MPs are now coming into the European Parliament from all over Europe in order to implement their anti-European and extremist course.”
“Democratic parties are now called on to curb this way of thinking and to defend and maintain European values,” Graumann said.
He also said that the “specter of anti-Semitism” had become a “brutal reality” after a gunman shot dead four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels Saturday.
“Such a thing can never be accepted and this message should be the very first which emanates from the new European Parliament,” Graumann said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was deeply shocked over the attack.
“It goes without saying that in every regard and from every conceivable perspective, it’s completely unacceptable what happened there,” Steinmeier’s spokesman told reporters Monday.
Graumann described as “intolerable” the winning of one seat in the parliament by the extremist anti-immigrant NDP of Germany.
Racism and anti-Semitism must have no place in Europe, Graumann warned.