Threat posed to democracy by extremist parties
and movements in Europe
In several member states,
extremist parties and movements are propagating and defending ideologies that are
incompatible with democracy and human rights.
These extremist movements
and parties pose a threat to the fundamental values that the Council of Europe sets out to
Currently the extremist
movements and parties that pose one of the greatest threats to democracy in member states
are those of the far right and, more generally, those that encourage intolerance,
xenophobia and racism. Even if they do not directly advocate violence, they nevertheless
create a climate that encourages its development.
The growing support in
some countries for these extremist parties and movements is particularly disturbing.
The Assembly also
emphasises that the violence employed by certain extreme left-wing movements in the name
of combating the far right is unacceptable.
The Assembly, which has a
particular responsibility for protecting European democratic values, must show the lead in
the search for appropriate political and legal responses, especially at the preventive
stage and as this type of phenomenon starts to emerge, not forgetting the necessary
responses regarding young people's education and public information in order to keep alive
the memory of acts and events as they really happened.
At national level, the
political response should be aimed at depriving extremist parties of their electoral
support by addressing the social and economic issues, such as unemployment, immigration
and security that these parties capitalise on, and by developing policies of education for
democratic citizenship based on citizens' rights and responsibilities . Moreover, measures
against the abuse of asylum and illegal immigration linked to organised crime should be
implemented more efficiently by the governments in order to reduce xenophobic feelings.
To answer the populist
and over-simplified statements of these extremist parties and movements, it is necessary
to re-establish the facts associated with the issues posed by immigration, reformulate
poorly expressed problems in a more relevant fashion and refute illogical claims through
Legislation should be
enacted - where it does not exist - to prohibit oral or written instigation to racism,
anti-Semitism and xenophobia; freedom of expression cannot be accepted as an excuse for
it. Existing legislation should be fully implemented. In this context, public denial of
the Holocaust should be regarded as an expression of anti-Semitism. Using the Internet for
racist purposes should be made a criminal offence.
Given the international
dimension of extremist movements and networks of a racist or xenophobic character,
co-operation between the competent authorities and police forces in Council of Europe
member states should be increased.
The Assembly calls on
its members to ensure that the parties they belong to base their programmes and action on
respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, together with
respect for the rights of national minorities, and refuse any support for extremist
parties of a racist or xenophobic character, whether explicit or implicit, and hence also
any alliance whatsoever with their elected representatives in order to form majorities
wielding political power.
The Assembly attaches
great importance to the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance
(ECRI), an independent group of experts, which, inter alia, publishes country
reports containing specific proposals. These proposals should also be taken up by national
The Assembly resolves to
co-operate effectively with the ECRI and hold regular debates on its activities.
The Assembly encourages
the ECRI to identify political responses to the worrying phenomenon of the growth of
extremist parties and movements from the moment they appear and begin their
The Assembly also
expresses its readiness to participate fully in the European Conference against Racism,
which will take place in Strasbourg from 11 to 13 October 2000.
The Assembly recommends
that the Committee of Ministers:
fully support the work of
the ECRI and ensure that member states give a concrete follow-up to its recommendations;
instruct the ECRI to
carry out an urgent in-depth examination of the curriculum in primary and secondary
schools and of school textbooks, so as to bring to light any expressions of xenophobia or
mystification of history that lead to hatred of other ethnic communities or social,
political or religious groups;
ask member states to
inform it of the specific follow-up given to the recommendations of the ECRI, including
legislation passed, as well as of measures taken to combat public expressions of
intolerance, xenophobia and racism;
address, as a matter of
priority, the issue of combating the dissemination of racist material via the Internet,
coming both from the far right and from the far left, through the drawing up of an
international legal instrument;
discuss problems of
discrimination and extremism in the framework of its monitoring procedures as a priority
Assembly debate on 25 January 2000 (2nd Sitting) (see
Doc. 8607, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr
Text adopted by the Assembly on 25 January 2000 (2nd Sitting).