Athena Institute

Magyar

Domestic Extremism - Europe as a Context

2011-11-14
We know that a behind the scenes process of the brewing emerging threat posed by domestic extremism is evolving on the European Continent for some years. The most important thing we do not know is the threat dynamics. But it is obvious that false dilemmas will only lead us to the wall. That inaction is not an option.

What We Know

We know that a behind the scenes process of the brewing emerging threat posed by domestic extremism is evolving on the European Continent for some years. We also know that in the past few years, more and more signs point to a deteriorating dynamics: domestic extremist groups were formed and launched serious attacks (e.g. the Roma serial killer case in Hungary or the Malmo sniper attacks).

Norway paid a serious price to let all understand that the example of Timothy McVeigh - that a sole person or small group can pose a serious threat - is not something one can dismiss saying that the attack took place in another place at another time.

Now, we also know that in Germany, another group is supposed to be active at least for over a decade, killing at least 10 people including a policewoman, detonating explosive devices and robbing banks.

We know that there are hundreds of active domestic extremist groups on European soil that are loosely or tightly - but in other cases: not at all - controlled by law-enforcement and national security agencies.

We also know that some of these groups maintain informal ties - in some cases: close cooperation - with political parties elected to national parliaments.

Finally, it is also important to note that mainstream politics may have started to adjust course: the recent incident in Germany was qualified by the Federal Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, as sign of “a new form of right-wing-extremist terrorism.”


What We Do Not Know

The most important thing we do not know is the threat dynamics.

Certainly, anyhow they were called throughout the ages, the phenomena of domestic extremist groups operating in European countries is not new. What we do not know is whether the current incidents - most notably Oslo and the German cell - are marking a serious shift towards an evolving threat dynamics.

The key in figuring this out - the other important thing we do not know - is whether the potentially evolving threat dynamics can be attributed to current economic factors (the financial and economic crisis) or caused mainly by long-term social change (e.g. immigration).


What is Obvious

It is obvious that we would better find the above out rather sooner than later - at this point, it is key to have a clear idea whether a possible surge in domestic extremist activities caused by the economic stress is before us in the short term.

It is also obvious that whatever the driving forces behind the dynamics, in the mid-term mainstream politics must adjust and - after at least a decade - address hard issues: in the East, most obviously new nationalisms and tensions surrounding the Roma community, in the West mostly immigration and rigid social structures.

But it is also evident that changing course in the mainstream political discourse cannot take place overnight. In the meantime institutions charged to tackle with the threat directly shall also be reinforced to enable them to adapt (lessons learnt are plenty).

The key however is to understand that things must change and decisions must be made to confront the phenomena. That waiting for another round of Paris or London riots will not make it this time. That false dilemmas (‘human rights vs. security’) will only lead us to the wall. That inaction is not an option.