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The German government’s plan against the spread of right-wing extremism

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The German government’s plan against the spread of right-wing extremism

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German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Tuesday he proposed a 13-point plan to limit the spread of right-wing extremism in Germany, a topic that has been discussed for months due to the increase in support for Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the main German far-right party.

AfD has existed for about ten years and has gone through various phases: in recent months he’s trying to tell himself as a more moderate party than its origins, but several leaders and activists remain in contact with neo-Nazi and illiberal environments. The German secret services have long placed the party under surveillance to assess its danger. At the beginning of January, news that some party leaders had discussed a plan with well-known neo-Nazi activists to expel asylum seekers and German citizens of foreign origin had provoked large pro-democracy demonstrations.

Faeser’s plan is considered a first response to those demonstrations by the government, led by a center-left coalition.

Plan (PDF) is titled Resolutely combat right-wing extremism – use the instruments of defensive democracy, “Strongly countering right-wing extremism – Tools to defend democracy”. Above all, it contains various indications for countering right-wing extremism at all levels, involving both local authorities, the judiciary and the police.

The most concrete proposal concerns a restriction of the laws on the sale and possession of weapons, which in Germany are already quite strict. The newspaper Southgerman newspaper explains in short, the government would like to allow members of organizations under investigation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, i.e. the internal secret services, to revoke their weapons licenses. The plan also includes a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons to private citizens. The same measure had already been proposed by Faeser two years ago, but it had never entered into force due to the opposition of one of the majority parties, the liberals of the FDP.

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Even the then Chancellor Angela Merkel several years ago had proposed a plan to counter right-wing extremism, which remained largely unapplied: the current majority, however, believes that today there is a broader political consensus, also in the country, on the fight against right-wing extremism, precisely because of the increase in support for the AfD.

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Another point of Faeser’s plan provides for greater funds for prevention activities against the spread of extremism in schools. Especially in certain regions AfD is very popular among younger Germans, and its youth wing is extremely active, as well as being the most extremist. In the summer of 2023 the internal secret services they had defined the youth wing of AfD a threat to German democracy (AfD appealed, and a complicated court case has been ongoing ever since).

Faeser’s plan also includes support for a parliamentary proposal to strengthen the independence of the German Constitutional Court. Illiberal European regimes have often strengthened their power through the control of the courts: this has also been seen in recent years in Hungary and Poland.

For months in Germany there has also been discussion about whether to ban the AfD entirely: from a practical point of view there are various reasons to think that it would be particularly complex, due to the fact that at least nominally the party does not say it is against the democratic and liberal structure of the German state, and that so far the violent episodes have remained rather isolated. In German history there are precedents, but they are very rare: in 1952 the German Constitutional Court banned the Reich Socialist Party, heir to the Nazi Party, and in 1956 the German Communist Party.

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– Read also: Can the AfD be banned?

According to some, banning AfD would be a politically risky move, which risks further strengthening the party. A few weeks ago Friedrich Merz, leader of the CDU, the main centre-right party, said that “these fake debates” only increase support for the AfD. «Do the Social Democrats really believe that we can simply ban a party that reaches 30 percent in the polls? It’s a frightening suppression of reality,” he commented.

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