25 July 2003
Threat posed to democracy by extremist parties and movements in Europe
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mrs Mirjana Feric-Vać, Croatia, Socialist Group
The current trend of political extremism should encourage all Council of Europe member states to be more vigilant than ever and to assess the threats posed by extremism to the fundamental values that the Council of Europe aims to uphold.
Extremism corresponds to a form of political activity which rejects the principles of parliamentary democracy, basing its ideology and its practices on intolerance, exclusion, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism.
The fight against extremism places democracies before a dilemma because they must, on the one hand, guarantee freedom of expression, assembly and association and allow all political groups to exist and be politically represented, and on the other hand, defend themselves and introduce safeguards against the activity of some extremist groups which flout democratic principles and human rights.
To counteract the harmful effects of extremism, all democracies must adopt restrictive political and administrative measures, as well as additional measures in the field of political ethics, education or information. To be effective, such measures must benefit from the backing of public opinion and be supported by civil society.
I. Draft resolution
1. The Parliamentary Assembly remains concerned at the resurgence of extremist movements and parties in Europe and considers that no member state is immune to the intrinsic threats that extremism poses to democracy.
2. The tendency today is for extremism to spread across the European continent. In western Europe extremist parties and movements have achieved significant electoral scores. In other member countries of the Council of Europe political extremism has also developed to a noticeable extent. This trend should encourage all Council of Europe member states to be more vigilant than ever and to assess the threats posed by extremism to the fundamental values that the Council of Europe aims to uphold.
3. Extremism, whatever its nature, is a form of political activity that overtly or covertly rejects the principles of parliamentary democracy and very often bases its ideology, and its political practices and conduct, on intolerance, exclusion, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism.
4. The Assembly notes that some extremist movements seek justification for their actions in religion. The danger of this trend is twofold: on the one hand it fosters intolerance, religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, and on the other it leads to the isolation of entire religious communities for the sake of individuals who abuse the universal values of religion.
5. Extremism relies on social discontent and proposes simplistic and stereotyped solutions in response to the anxieties and uncertainties felt by certain social groups in the face of the changes affecting our societies. It shifts responsibility for these difficulties onto the inability of representative democracy to meet the challenges of today’s world and the incapacity of elected representatives and institutions to address citizens’ expectations, or it designates a particular section of the population as responsible or as a potential threat.
6. Extremist parties and movements are often oligarchies with a strong hierarchical structure which do not apply democratic principles internally. The unity of the group is reinforced by its exclusive ideology, its populist and simplistic discourse and the predominance of its leader.
7. Extremism is a danger for all democratic states because the fanaticism it involves can serve as a pretext for the use and justification of violence. Even if it does not directly advocate violence, it generates a climate conducive to the growth of violence. It is both a direct threat because it jeopardises the democratic constitutional order and freedoms, and an indirect threat because it can distort political life. Traditional political parties may be tempted to adopt the issues and demagogical discourse specific to extremist parties in order to counter their increasing electoral popularity.
8. The Assembly is aware that democracies fighting extremism face a dilemma because they must on the one hand guarantee freedom of expression, assembly and association and allow all political groups to exist and be politically represented and on the other hand defend themselves and introduce safeguards against the activity of some extremist groups which flout democratic principles and human rights.
9. Referring to Recommendation 1438 (2000) on the threat posed to democracy by extremist parties and movements in Europe and Resolution 1308 (2002) on restrictions on political parties in the Council of Europe member states, the Assembly remains convinced that governments must avoid allowing extremism to be perceived as normal and must counteract its effects by applying – or adopting if they do not exist – appropriate political and administrative measures to preserve the rule of law based on respect for democratic principles and human rights. In this connection the Assembly notes that the historical development of the various countries and their differing criteria for tolerance result in different countries adopting different penalties for similar acts.
10. However, the Assembly considers that these restrictive measures can only be used to tackle the roots of extremism if they are supported by public opinion and are accompanied by additional measures concerned with political ethics or in the fields of education or information.
11. It notes that civil society constitutes an essential link between society and government. It is often a key political ally in promoting human rights and democracy. States must therefore consider the organisations of civil society as partners and help them to become established by supporting their activities.
12. The Assembly considers that the rules and principles set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the general policy recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), particularly Recommendation No. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination adopted in December 2002, are basic texts which should guide the member states in their strategies for fighting extremism.
13. The Assembly therefore invites the governments of the Council of Europe member states:
a. to provide in their legislation that the exercise of freedom of expression, assembly and association can be limited for the purpose of fighting extremism. However, any such measures must comply with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights;
b. to apply or introduce if they do not exist:
. effective penalties where cases of proven damage, caused by extremist political parties or its members are established;
. proportionate and dissuasive penalties against public incitement to violence, racial discrimination and intolerance;
. the suspension or withdrawal of public funding for organisations promoting extremism;
. the dissolution of extremist parties and movements, which should always be regarded as an exceptional measure. It is justified in the case of a threat to a country’s constitutional order, and should always be in conformity with the country’s constitutional and legislative provisions;
c. to monitor and if necessary to prevent the reconstitution of dissolved parties or movements under another form or name;
d. to encourage political parties to devise a new code of ethics, basing their programmes and activities on respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, excluding political alliances with extremist parties, reinforcing the rules on the transparency of political party finances if necessary and proposing plausible solutions to the social and economic problems which cause public concern;
e. to develop school programmes for education for democratic citizenship based on citizens’ rights and duties, social tolerance and respect for difference. Education and training are the most fundamental and lasting methods of forearming people against discriminatory and extremist ideologies;
f. to encourage campaigns to make citizens aware of the harmful effects of political extremism on democracy;
g. to encourage civil society, which plays a key role in the process of integration and social cohesion, to overcome all forms of extremism and intolerance;
h. to establish national legislation and administrative measures and closer international co-operation to discourage any propagation of extremist ideologies through new information technologies;
i. to support the work of ECRI, whose task is to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance throughout greater Europe, and to ensure that the member states take practical action on its recommendations.
II. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur1
1. Modern political extremism: assessments and trends
1. We live in an increasingly globalised world, in an expanded community of democratic countries, which respect human rights. We live in a time of progress and encouragement of democratic stabilisation. In reality, this progress is not without danger: the extremist movements and political parties are still real threat.
2. No democracy is immune to the threat of extremism. No societies or government will abate the threat to democracy without clear standards and measures to fight extremism as inherently and constitutionally incompatible with democratic principles.
3. Extremism is a danger which needs to be overcome, by encouraging and promoting with determination the values of free individuals and citizens.
4. Extremism includes manifest or announced violence, it claims that people are not equal, supports the superiority and domination of a particular group, degrades freedom for others, denies human dignity, encourages intolerance, racism and/or involves radical changes to democratic rules, by negating ethics, responsibility and equality. All this is expressed as active behaviour of groups, political movements or associations of individuals.
5. Organised extremism, whether within or outside political parties, presupposes the abuse of the right of association. Limitations to this freedom, necessary in a democratic society, must be prescribed by law in proportion to the danger of extremism and made with a clear purpose of ensuring equality and freedom for everyone.
6. Political extremism in a broader sense, is a form of political activity, which denies respect for political principles, the constitutional order based on human rights, and encourages social exclusion on the basis of ideology, national or ethnic origins, religion, language or any other specific feature of the human community.
7. Therefore, it is vital to fight this plague rationally:
a) by supporting the legitimate authorities and insisting on the concept of justice and equity, in opposition to every form of extremism and elements of violence which they inevitably involve;
b) by emphasizing the values of democracy as a system of equality of people, their legal position, treatment, dignity and opposing every form of intolerance, discrimination and degradation of personal or collective identity and freedom;
c) by desiring to attain a consensus and respect of the acquired rights of democratic minorities, and their advancement, instead of political radicalism, which is by definition a composite and systematic part of extremism.
8. Political extremism in this new situation is not less but rather more hazardous. The international community and progressive democratic public now have an even greater task of recognising new forms of political extremism, not as a presumed hypothetical evil but as a real risk to the essential values of democratic society. The main trends in the past decade have been:
a) Europe is now not only larger, but in addition, more complex than ever. Apparently the convergence of democratic standards and institutions has a different rate of acceleration in divergent countries and regions. The treat of extremism has diverged into many types.
b) In Western Europe parties and movements have renounced some of the archetypal ideas of extremism, racism, nationalism. They have corrected their political vocabulary but not their strategy and goals. They are more scrupulous in their procedures, selecting new themes. They are increasingly populist parties announcing radical measures against the establishment, against moderate parties and political positions. The established parties have lost a part of their constituencies in favour of more radical and occasionally extremist parties. They have gained considerable support by promoting immigration issues, new social divisions, unemployment and poverty, protection of national pride and values. Right wing extremism also finds a resonance in conventional political parties. An open appeal to extremism is rare in Western Europe, due to public opinion, disinclination towards fanatics and holders of extreme views. Left wing extremism has been identified as the main enemy as globalised corporate capitalism and the treat of globalisation, gaining some popular support, but losing the sharpness of social revolutionary goals in their own country.
c) Even if some separatist movements might show extremist elements of various origin, one has to bear in mind that, it can, under no circumstances, be taken for granted that separatism is to be considered as extremism per se.
d) In new democracies the political scene is turbulent, characterised occasionally by signs of arrogant nationalism, momentous anti-western sentiment, distrust for democratic institutions, nostalgia for the glorious past. Extremism is rooted in the political culture, in the deficiency of traditions promoting political tolerance and agreement. The (former) socialist parties are adjusting their political programs following the fall of the socialist system. The powerful and military dangerous "East" is not a treat to democracy, and the problem is now how to integrate those new democracies.
e) Some of the extremist parties and movements acquire respectable influence and support from voters. Some of them, with an extremist past or ideological vocabulary, are even part of the governing coalitions which is contradictory to the general trends.
f) The International community is ready time and again to react actively against local political extremists and movements. The proponents of extremist political ideologies are isolated. This is a tendency and not an accomplished goal.
9. The events of 11 September symbolise the new tectonic changes in the balance of global power. This is a new polarization. The new foe is not just one secret organization. The occurrence of aggressive terrorism is not attacking one country but is a move against globalisation and modernisation. The Iraq war shows that polarisation easily escalates into the extensive use of brutal power and war, violence and the uncontrolled use of strength. The possible confusion of perceptions, imminent chaos on the periphery of the free world will ignite a new risk of political extremism, new disruptions in the democratic process, militant polarization for both them and us.
2. Political violence and extremism
10. The violent nature of extremism is manifest and latent. The violent forms are usually curbed or prohibited by law. In most democracies violence, if it exists, is restrained by legitimate authority and justice. The principle: "No freedom for the enemies of freedom" - must be cautiously defined: not to give ground is close to the extensive use of state power. Human rights are at stake. Latent and potential violence is dominantly perceptible in forms of hate speech, relativisation and even provocation of the rules and tradition of democracy. Violence is not restrained by the legitimate use of state authority, at the same time democratic systems attempt to prevent extremism by civic education, increasing social tolerance, the institutionalisation of conflict and the development of a fine balance between rights and obligations, the promotion of the rule of law and the restriction of rights versus freedoms.
11. Even if violence is not visible, as a movement or a phenomenon, the fanatical nature of extremism is preparing the ground for a possible excuse for violence. The consecration of each one’s own group - such as race, nation or subculture - leads to the humiliation and molestation of others. To treat another human group or person as inferior, to deny human abilities to anybody is not only a precondition of intolerance, discrimination and the degradation of humanity and tolerance, but a very necessary element for violence against others, an excuse and pretext for violence. To see one’s own group as a victim of violence, power and mistreatment, to see one’s own nationality family or personal history as repressed by others actually leads to the legitimisation of one’s own violence. To see others as enemies is not only the negation of tolerance but also a justification of potential violence.
3. Political extremism: radical or violent
12. Extremism is not a simple radical political position. It is not acceptable to confuse legitimate opposition to a system with a threat to that system. Extremism is not a critical position towards a system, it is the destructive misuse of freedom - and to confuse freedom with extremism is a pars pro toto logical error. Extremism is a refutation to the rights of others. Extremism is the denial of the rights and liberties of others.
13. On the contrary, the rise and development of democracy presuppose the criticism of the system, the use of legitimate means to promote change, and indeed radical change to the system. The power and stability of democracies are proportional to this tolerance and competition of ideas. The perimeters of freedom must be constrained only where prescribed by law, which is necessary in a democratic society, proportional to legitimate aims. The extremists ignore this rule by imposing their own rule: extremism interprets its own ideas as beyond all restrictions. Extremism is a negation of the golden rule.
14. The criteria for the definition of extremism are not formal black and white rules. For a variety of reasons extremism, not formulated exclusively as an ideology or within proclaimed party programs or movements. It is usually more evident in everyday actions. The manifest invocation of extremist ideology is rare as a general political program. Political practice and behaviour are essential for the political identification of extremism. It is also politically important to understand the social roots and structural prerequisites of extremism.
4. Extremist political parties and movements
15. Political extremism is not an individual action nor can it be ascribed exclusively to political parties. The individual extremist's values, actions or preparation to act, are not extremism but isolated behaviour. On an individual level, extremism is a set of values contradictory to the standards or the customary norms of political behaviour.
16. Extremism in political parties is embedded in their ideologies (apparent or hidden) in their programs, declarations and terminology, movements and acts. It is not essential for a definition of extremism for all these elements or aspects to exist to indicate extremism. It is sufficient for one of them to denote extremism. These parties are organisations; i.e. they have goals, resources, means, structures and methods of action.
17. Different extremist parties have similar organisational principles. They tend to be oligarchies, without an internal democracy emphasising centralisation, secrecy and excitement about their goals and leaders. Charismatic leaders are inevitable ingredients of extremist political parties and movements. The charismatic elements in movements are not the manifestation of the genius of the leader, but the result of the hope of the followers that the leader will satisfy their expectations. This is a two-way relationship: the leader needs impetuous followers, and the clientele and public expect wonders. As the charismatic order is not the result of the mythical superiority of leaders, but the outcome of its social environment, movements are not the result of intentions and rationality. Unsatisfied interests are what create social movements, but they are not a sufficient pre-condition for these movements.
5. Political extremism and movements
18. In many new democracies there is a certain relationship with underground networks, the informal economy and even organised crime. The resources are often non-transparent, due to the nature of extremism or a lack of popular support.
19. Social movements are often the result of frustrations and the incapability of institutions to change the course of the energies of the masses in the routines of political institutions. Movements are characterised by the affections of participants. Their interests, according to their subjective feeling, are not respected.
20. We can speak about various kinds of social movements. The causes and genesis, circumstances and effects differ even where the appearance and presentation are the same, as a phenomenon. The first form is the movement intending to destroy social structure and rules. Those movements are movements against something, they require the definition of opponents as the enemy, and they are a destructive kind of movement. Movements of this genus are a reaction to the marginalisation of some social groups in formal political life - and from time to time the result - of the mass acceptance of identical goals formulated as ideological or national programs. Extremist political movements are one type of such revolutionary movements. The growth of extremist movements depends on the stereotyped explanation of such hostile circumstances, the definition of the enemy in the form of a conspiracy by global rulers, placing responsibility for their own miserable conditions on target minority groups which are different in terms of nationality, ethnic origin, religion, colour, culture or language. Stereotypes and defamation, humiliating and aggressive behaviour are not only manifest forms of extremism, but a differentia specifica for such, in fact, conservative movements.
21. Not all movements are extremist, but almost all extremists' circles and organisations intend to become movements mobilising their supporters and sympathizers.
22. Movements are not the symptoms of a sick society, or a lack of social solidarity, but the result of the deficiency of routine political life, bureaucratic political parties, programmed life and work. They - per se - are far from abnormal and pathological, they are prevention against social stagnation and the ineffective institutionalisation of societies. Dynamic civil society, mobilized and socially responsible professional groups, the active media and opinion agents, are the preconditions for a mature democracy and adaptable society. In new democracies - where the risk of extremism is greater - new movements are promoting change. The new challenges have provoked new movements, with new interests which are not adequately aggregated through political parties or otherwise. Not all movements are extremists.
6. The origin of political extremism
23. The fertile ground for a movement is the social situation: particularly inequality and uncertainty. Uncertainty is a repercussion of rapid social, economic and political change. Uncertainty is a subjective feeling, which cannot be interpreted only by reason. The human reaction is not purposeful and computed, but illogical and undisciplined. Fear and frustrations foster anger, anger turns into extremism. This transformation is not a personal phenomenon but is a picture of the rise of extremism in rapid social change. The rooted habits, values, traditions are reinvigorated in the new light of the new (globalised!) world.
7. Extremist ideologies
24. An open society assumes competition and confrontation of ideologies - free expression of human rights. Extremism contradicts this interpretation of ideologies. For them coherence and unanimity - confirmation with facts is not essential. The extremist's ideologies are not logical and verifiable; they are defined as blind convictions and undiscerning philosophies.
25. The functions of modern religion in the total life of the individual and the community are related to the spiritual sphere of the individual’s life and separate from public authority. The role of religion is not diminished by this since the eternal eschatological questions remain its main property. Many people would feel incomplete without rooting their lives in faith. Religion forms the roots of the standards of the community, its ethical values and traditions. A democratic state defends and protects the freedom of religion, recognizes the freedom of religious confession, conscience and opinion.
26. A living religious feeling may be abused or even become justification for political extremism. Most religions recognise separation from the state, advocate a distance from everyday politics, accept the fundamental values of democracy, preach tolerance of others, and condemn racism, xenophobia and political extremism.
27. The criterion (or test) to see if a religious community is like this is its attitude to other faiths and minorities. To negate other people’s different faith is in opposition to the idea of a democratic society and human rights.
28. In recent times we have been witnesses, unfortunately, to examples where religion is used to encourage political extremism. This is primarily true of the advance of militant Islam. The danger of this phenomenon is two-fold: on the one hand the encouragement of religious intolerant fanaticism is dangerous in itself, but on the other hand there is an equal danger of the isolation of entire (religious) communities for the sake of extreme individuals who abuse religion.
29. The legal principle of the individualisation of guilt is sufficient only for formal proceedings, for real political action to reduce the room for action by extremists with the help of the religious community. Many nationalist movements see justification for their actions in religion, replacing the universality of religion with narrow-minded nationalism, xenophobia and intolerance. This is abuse of religion, seeking at the same time justification in it for these actions. Religious feelings in this are incidental: the theory of the right to religious confession and freedom of opinion is used as a cover for militant action and extremism.
8. Political extremism: left and right
30. Post-modern ideologies are not only left or right, have not such simple prefixes. In the New World there is no room for genuine left/right divisions. Obviously the divisions are clear but they are neither dogmatic nor a reflection of old divisions but rather a disagreement on principal or antagonism created by differences between group interests and discovered on the solid ground of the fight for authentic political representation.
31. The standard political division between the right and left is no longer accurate. The collapse of the Welfare State, globalisation as a process assumes the renunciation of dogmas - both by the left and right. The new social divisions, new social polarisation, the necessity of maintaining global economic competitiveness in the West result in the denunciation of aged radical projects of social reconstruction. In the emerging democracies socialist leftist dogmas are defunct, and ideology has mutated into a sentimental and nostalgic memory and become an idealisation of the past. The world has one superpower and not a balance that is not only a fact of military and diplomatic analysis, but also something that deeply influences internal domestic national issues. The global level effects local issues such as budget spending for defence, labour regulation, welfare etc.
32. The right is concerned with some topics typical for the leftist tradition - such as social welfare, the protection of jobs, unemployment, but traditionally with the issues of immigration, race superiority, national pride and sovereignty, crimes, erosion of morals and similar. These topics recur periodically but now with multiculturalism, and free migration they are receiving new energy. The renewal of discredited old propaganda is not unmodified repetition but the complex amalgamation of many different influences.
33. The left/right extremism distinction is not impartial. In refractory efforts to always have balance in our analyses, we habitually mention both extremes - and in many countries they exist - but in reality it is questio facti in certain countries which - left or right - is actually a more dangerous treat to democracy.
34. The good example of artificial systematisation is the attitude towards globalisation. Both left and right extremists use the dubious effects of globalisation on societies, particularly in small and less developed countries to demonstrate the increasing perils for the country and society, to mobilise and advocate new supporters. Globalisation as a process reduces the role of the national state. Globalisation shrinks distances, makes the global village a reality, turns politics into a new art of balancing between many tendencies. The economy is not new only in terms of technology but also unpredictable. The main players are not local but transitional. All this is a basis for uncertainty, frustration, and a lack of orientation – as well as for a subjective and economic crisis, decay, and risk - as objective grounds for extremism.
35. The distinction between left/right extremism is also suspect from another perspective. The parties are changing their programs and leaders, they are learning from their failures, and they are adopting a new strategy to capture new supporters. Extremism when it achieves a certain level of success in elections tends to become moderate (if all the other conditions stay same) tends to become and present itself as temperate and moderate. On the contrary, if the situation changes some parties and movements abandon legitimate moderate means, in favour of extremism.
36. Terrorism assumes the existence of an organisation and this organisation is arranged on several levels and in many forms. The danger of secret terrorist organisations is that a small number of organised terrorists can do a great deal of damage in destabilising democracy. Terrorism is the highest operational form of extremism, which assumes extremism as justification.
9. Nations in transition: additional factors
37. There are clear risks of extremism in deficient democracies. The risks increase if the cultural environment, the tradition is not democratic, if the society is divided and confused, if values are in collision, if the institutions of democracy are not stabile and firm. In a more systematic way, we can say that the democratic tradition, the participation of the political culture, stabile institutions – ranging from electoral rules and ethics, to executive, efficient and open public administration, to the judiciary.
38. The level of social anomie is becoming an increasingly visible cost of social change and political development. The relevance of such “costs” is not academic or economic, but practical and political. They should be legitimised, accepted as legitimate and unavoidable by the population. They are not. The famous mechanism of ego-defence - projection – functions well. Somebody else must be responsible, guilty. The old political manipulation is used: the invention of an enemy responsible for virtually everything - from bad luck to the low quality of products, from a feeling of misery to the climate. The old Socialist regime (less and less!), communists, foreigners, other nations, conspiracies, imperialism, and moral decay - every suitable foe is responsible for personal frustration. Those permanent frustrations are significant political variables for the understanding of extremism.
39. The legal system and government are burdened with expectations that are simply impossible to achieve, at least in a short time. The government has inherited inefficiency and the expansiveness of the administrative apparatus as well as the suspicion toward government officials as exponents of the old regime. The very often prescribed set of rules is simply ornamentation; too complex to be realised, they are ritualised. Additionally, the interpretation of the rules in practice differs greatly from what is proclaimed in their texts. Institutional design is inadequate for the development of self-sustaining democratic institutions. Governments come and go, constantly trying to change a desperate situation through legislative acts. The problem is not imperfect regulation or lack of experience, but rather, the entire mechanism in place of attempting to implement laws. Institutions need at least a minimum of durability to develop a precise and understandable scope of competencies and goals; i.e. who is responsible for what, and what is the aim of the organization? Only with time will these institutions be able to function properly.
40. The borders between the East and West are not political borders, and they will not be removed by political decisions or certain acts. The difference decreases with time, is diminishing, and this convergence does not merely have the form of formal unification or integration, but also new synergy and rapprochement. The specifics will remain. The potential for extremism is greater where there is rapid social change, when values are disrupted, when adjustment is slow, when the standard of living is falling, social costs are high, the economy sluggish, state services poor, and the state generally weak. The change cannot be stopped, but the acceleration produces social and psychological tension, conflicts, and the deep restructuring of society.
10. The effects
41. The threat to democracy has two forms: direct and indirect. The direct threat is the organised activity of violence, hate, racism, nationalism, religious or other fundamentalism. Such forms disturb political and social life, induce anger, fear or uncertainty, and ignite scandals and instability. The common people are confused, minorities jeopardised, freedoms are endangered and institutions misdirected.
42. The indirect threat is that political life is misled: fictitious issues are treated as real, the political culture eroded, militant wording appears - restricting the discourse to simple demagogy. New social topics are obstructed and unsightly.
11. Conclusion: against extremism
43. Measures against extremism are different. Complex measures of fighting extremism must be undertaken. The best medicine against political pathologies of extremism is economic development, political democratisation, and the building of institutions and a modern society.
44. Although the fight against extremism cannot be conducted through prosecution and punishment measures alone, it has been assessed that the system of disclosure, evaluation and punishment is one of the key elements, not only for the prosecution of political extremism, but also for stabilising the legal system in general.
45. Indeed the criminalisation of racism, racial discrimination or hate speech, and xenophobia is widely accepted and protected by domestic criminal law. They are not intended to affect political parties but individuals. The logic of such sanctions can easily be applied to organisations, specifically to political parties or organisations (legal persons). The final action is the dissolution of such entity. Even movements often have an organised group as the nucleus of activity.
46. The problems with legal penalisation are that sanctions cannot fully repair the damage. Sanctions intend to cure, but the illness of extremism is deeper and not curable by penalties. Additional legal and other actions are necessary.
47. Political and criminal prosecution is not effective if it is not followed by the social action of education, and by changes in the political culture. Police and judicial action are ineffective without public support. On the other hand, there is no public support without a free and active press. Therefore, the proposed measures seek the simultaneous use of different measures and activities, the equally intensive use of appeals to conscience, awareness of consequences, legal and organizational measures and more severe and more efficient sanctions
48. A systematic reform of party systems and election rules to discourage extremism is one of the priorities.
49. Legal measures also include the full responsibility of political parties and other organisations receiving support from the budget. Penalisation alone is not enough. The purpose of clear and transparent party finances is particularly important for political parties that are connected with underground organisations and soft money. In weak democracies all measures intended to regulate democratic standards of financing, operating (i.e. transparency, public scrutiny) or organising the parties is desirable.
50. A high level of mobilisation of all institutions includes important international elements. Although the interest in fighting extremism lies primarily in national states, the activities undertaken in reducing extremism are global in nature. The interest of some countries lies in preventing the “import” of extremism.
51. Fighting extremism is the task for the state and competent government. This is not a bureaucratic campaign. A movement against violent extremism is essential. The encouragement of civil society is to promote the mass mobilisation of citizens against extremism and intolerance. They must raise public awareness about the causes and harmful effects of extremism. Public awareness must be developed through systematic campaigns, carried out in a manner similar to those that warn about the protection of the environment, or behaviour in traffic. The harm that extremism can cause to all should be clearly indicated, and a strong ethical condemnation of such practice should be made. Each, even verbal, relativisation of extremism must be prevented (this is what everybody else does, it is sometimes necessary, it does not harm anyone, etc.).
52. Finally, the fact that this is a sensitive public issue makes us believe that extremism can be reduced through a political campaign. The success of such an action depends on many circumstances. Some are objective, some unpredictable. It is necessary to take the threats and dangers of extremism seriously. Punitive measures should be carefully balanced with awareness-raising activities, promotional and educational measures to achieve the mobilisation of citizens, associations, political entities and all those who, each in itself, can contribute to the suppression of extremism. Only in this way can permanent achievements and change be guaranteed.
53. Extremism is not only action. It begins and is strengthened with ideas which should not merely be punished, but preventive action should be taken by means of education for democracy. People are free in their choices, free to think and have certain opinions and values, philosophical approaches or ideas. This freedom assumes the right to education. Society has an obligation to defend these rights but also the obligation to work systematically against extremism, intolerance, national, religious or any other form of discrimination. There is an active obligation to introduce this kind of subject into the educational curriculum, the obligation to encourage public opinion, and the obligation to aid the civil society and other activities against political extremism.
54. The educational and training system is the basic and most far-reaching form of struggle against extremism, exclusiveness and terrorism as its highest operative expression.
55. In itself it does not give results over night, and it is not the most favorable form of struggle against terrorism, but it is certainly the most favorable form of struggle against extremism, as the idea which gives birth to terrorism. Simply by touching on the heart of the problem of intolerance and exclusiveness of every kind, in the educational and training system, young people are brought up and educated on the basis of the principles of true democratic values, they adopt them and in this way become “immune” to the influence of extremists.
56. For those who are older, who have already left the school system, it is possible to organise lectures and specific campaigns by means of reinforced media activity, to acquaint people, make them conscious and teach them competently about these problems.
12. Civil society
57. The civil society plays a special role in this. The civil society is a term that refers to the existence of a sphere of voluntary organisations and associations, to an informal network of organised individuals engaged in public affairs, the tradition of non-governmental associations of various kinds, the lively and dynamic sphere of self-organisation by citizens.
58. The new social movements have recognised the problem of political extremism as a problem which is worth fighting, and the civil society is the natural form of organisation for this. The civil society has proved to be a key political ally in promoting the idea of human rights and democracy, and this potential of self-organisation by citizens should, therefore, be used to prevent the awakening of political extremism.
59. In mobilising the public, identifying the forms, dangers and consequences of political extremism, xenophobia, discrimination, regardless of all the varieties of political orientation and ideological attitudes, the civil society is a proper and real alternative, a warranty of social stability. The more a society has developed all the institutions and instruments of the civil society, the more it is resistant to the storms of political upheavals and the risks of extremism. The civil society is important for fostering the process of social integration and cohesion.
60. The partnership between the state and the civil society strengthens and refreshes democracy, overcomes bureaucratic routine, prevents the risk of totalitarianism and extremism, rediscovers the benefit of tolerance and cooperation, of involvement by everyone in political life. It is necessary to encourage the development of the civil culture as a pluralist culture based on communication and persuasion, the culture of consensus and diversity.
Reporting Committee : Political Affairs Committee
Reference to Committee : Order 560 (2000)
Draft Resolution adopted by the Committee on 26 June 2003 with 3 abstentions
Members of the Committee : Jakic (Chairman), Rogozin (Vice-Chairman), Feric-Vac (Vice-Chairperson), Spindelegger (Vice-Chairman), Aguiar, Aliyev, de Aristegi (alternate : Lopez Gonzalez), Ates, Atkinson, Azzolini, Berceanu, Beres, Bianco, Blaauw, Blankenborg, Cekuolis, Clerfayt, Davern, Dreyfus-Schmidt, Druviete, Durrieu, Elo, Frey, Glesener (alternate : Graas), Goulet, Gross, Hedrich, Henry, H÷rster, Hovhannisyan, Iwinski, Judd, Karpov, Kirilov, Klich, Koši, Kostenko, van der Linden, Lloyd, Loutfi, Magnusson, Margelov, Martinez-Casan, Medeiros Ferreira, Mercan, Micunovic, Mignon, Mihkelson, Muratovic, Naudi Mora, Neguta, Nemcova, Nemeth, Oliynyk, Ouzky (alternate : Curdova), Pangalos, Petrova-Mitevska, Petursdottir, Pourgourides, Prentice (alternate : Chapman), Prica, Prisacaru, de Puig, Pullicino Orlando, Ranieri (alternate : de Zulueta), Roth, Severin, Severinsen, Tabajdi, Tekelioglu, Tritz, Vakilov, Volpinari, Voulgarakis, Westerberg, Wielowieyski, Wohlwend, Wurm, Yarygina, Zacchera, Zhvania, Ziuganov.
N.B. : The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretariat of the Committee : Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Chevtchenko, Mr Dossow, Mrs Entzminger, Ms AllÚon.
1 The explanatory memorandum was drawn up on the basis of a study carried out at the request of the Rapporteur by Mr Josip Kregar, Professor of law, University of Zagreb.