Fighting the Fringes: Berlin Sharpens Focus on Right-Wing Extremism
The German government has been under fire ever since a murderous far-right terror cell was uncovered in 2011. Now, Chancellor Merkel's justice minister has proposed the establishment of a commission to coordinate the battle against extremism in the country.
When German Family Minister Kristina Schröder established an initiative in 2010 to combat left-wing extremism in the country, the outcry was immediate. First and foremost, many worried that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government was equating left-wing violence with right-wing violence and losing its focus in the fight against neo-Nazis.
The commissioner, she told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, should be situated in the Chancellery and should act as a coordinator for all state-sponsored programs designed to combat extremism. Currently, she noted, "citizens who seek to counter extremist activities on a local level are frustrated rather than encouraged."
She said that, while there are a number of programs currently in place, the diversity of the initiatives has become so highly complex "that they seem opaque and even inconsistent." She said that a survey among various ministries in Berlin found that nobody has a clear overview of the various programs and projects.
Undefined Criminal Milieu
While Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was careful to note that the new office would be responsible for programs directed at all types of extremism, she said it would have a "particular focus in the area of right-wing extremism."
More than anything, though, the NSU case exposed serious shortcomings in both German operations to keep right-wing groups under surveillance and the police investigation into the nine murders. For years, the killings were treated as being the likely product of some undefined criminal milieu within Germany's immigrant population.
Leutheusser-Scharrenberger envisions the new position as being similar to that of the federal integration commissioner, who has had an office at the Chancellery since the position was created in 1978.
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