by Lamprini Basdeki. Originally published on 2013/09/29

With the  murder of a leftist hip-hop artist by an extremist party member only a few days ago, Europe finds itself on alert: the rise of extremist groups in the European states as a result of the current economic crisis is one of the consequences of the crisis that Europe is facing on a social and political level.

In Greece

34-year-old anti-fascist artist Pavlos Fyssas, known as Killah P, was stabbed on his way out of a cafe in Athens after watching a football match with his friends. It is reported that approximately 30-40 men with clubs were gathered outside the cafeteria and one of them started fighting with Fyssas, finally killing him with his knife. The necessary investigations by the Greek authorities revealed that the 45-year-old killer, Giorgos Roupakias, was actively involved on a paid basis in the Golden Dawn extremist activities, namely organized attacks against leftists, homosexuals, and immigrants. However, the party spokesman refuses any connection with the individual, the incident and the aforementioned crimes.

The party, which has gained some seats in the Greek Parliament following the last Greek general elections, is known for its commission of crimes against selected groups and close relationship with the Greek law enforcement officers who has been suspected to “cover” the actions of the extremists. In a country where unemployment rate has recently hit more than 50% and where the basic salary remains one of the lowest in Europe The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn seems to be receiving more and more support from the public due to their promises of an exit from the current recession.

In Europe

The killing of the 34-year-old artist has mobilized anti-fascist groups around Europe. Anti-Golden Dawn and anti-fascist protests have been taking place ever since the event in Barcelona, Brussels, Paris, London, and Amsterdam, expressing deep concerns in Europe about the rise of extremism.

European officials have already expressed their fears on this, starting with Greece and spreading to the rest of the Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thobjorn Jagland already clarified his position by characterizing this evolution as “an extremely dangerous development”.

On a pan-European level, we are seeing far-right movements gaining more and more support from the public. From Sweden to France, from Denmark to the Netherlands and Hungary, extremist parties and movements are taking advantage of the current crisis to spread their ideologies which happen to have many common characteristics among them: islamophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Europeanism, and anti-multiculturalism.

What’s next?

Europe is getting into an era that is about to test its stability, structure and ability to be “United in diversity”. It looks like most of the far-right movements are gaining credits from the European instability resulted by the financial crisis. Indeed, the crisis has revealed the European lack of control of migration flows (thus  feeding xenophobia all over Europe and the European absence of economic and political cohesion). The Dublin II regulation has been, ever since its initial inception, one of the most destabilizing factors of the European states and the main contributor, along with the economic crisis, to the current rising of extremist groups. Consequently, European citizens, bearing in mind the economic challenges that are taking place throughout the continent, seem to look skeptical towards the choice of parties that are moving towards enhancing European values and that are willing to strengthen ties between the member states.

And while the demographic trends of the continent are shifting rapidly, human rights and the rule of law are increasingly neglected or put at risk in quite a number of states, especially where extremism seems to be higher. The rising of those groups are only demonstrating that Europe needs to focus on the most relevant issues such as migration, border safety, integration and human rights, things that go hand in hand with the absolute need for economic stability. When it comes to border safety, Europe needs to take a better look at the Dublin II regulation which only harms the receiving states – and unfortunately, due to their geographical position, only the states of Southern Europe. It also needs to build a better capacity when it comes to protecting its own borders and assist the Southern states into taking the right measures. Perhaps even a reconsideration of FRONTEX itself should be considered, since it is not a very effective European mechanism. As to the immigrants who are currently in European premises, the Union needs to focus on their integration – instead of their deportation to the first country of arrival- and the strong protection of their human rights.

Starting January 2014, Greece will find itself in the position of the Council presidency. As it was announced recently by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the main goals of this presidency is to enhance discussions on a European level over the issues of border protection and safety, subjects that are tied to the economic recovery of Europe. And as we are aware of the fact that those important issues are to be discussed in the Union shortly, we can only hope that they will be addressed correctly this time, so as to avoid tragedies like the one in Athens and to maintain the values of safety, freedom of speech and human rights protection in the European capitals.

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