Study warns of possible new attacks against Roma as neo-Nazi movement gains traction

A new study commissioned by the Interior Ministry has suggested that the neo-Nazi movement in the Czech Republic (estimated as 4,000 strong with 400 hardcore members) is successfully pushing an agenda of hatred and racism in troubled parts of the country. As it stands, the last decade or so saw a number of arson attacks against ethnic Roma families including a highly-publicised case where a toddler barely survived and was left with lifelong disabilities. According to the latest report, unless more comprehensive measures are taken soon, racially-motivated attacks spurred by the neo-Nazi movement, may increase.

I spoke to political analyst Miroslav Mareš who headed the project.

“Regarding neo-Nazism, the situation is fairly stable but what we are seeing is the rise of ‘usual’ racism: in socially-troubled areas we can see the involvement of the regular population in anti-Roma demonstrations and the neo-Nazis are the ‘drivers’ of anti-Roma activities and prejudices. Of course, there are a lot of problems regarding the issue but we can now hear racist statements from local politicians from non-extremist parties. And some extremists have said ‘Look, they are drawing from our traditional programme’.”

Neo-Nazis, then, are increasingly successful in pushing their agenda?

“I think that they are and now they are active in public demonstrations. At last year’s May 1 rally in Brno they were present along with members of the far-right Workers Party of Social Justice. That is what has been happening.”

You have just gotten back from a conference on extremism in Brussels: is the rise of the Right, so to speak, a pan-European problem?

“It is. You can see various kinds of extremism from country to country. There is the extremism of established political parties or far-right parties such as in Hungary, on the other hand you can also see rising militancy including the rising phenomenon or danger of extremist terrorism. Last year in Norway there was the terrible attack by Anders Breivik, there is the National Socialist Underground in Germany, neo-Nazis in Russia or the group Death Squad in Hungary in 2009. I think that the rising extremist scene is a threat also in terms of political violence and terrorism.”

One of the findings in the new study is that there could be increased attacks against the Roma in the Czech Republic in the next five years. Obviously that is a threat needs to be taken seriously.

“This is the most important profile field regarding right-wing extremism. Because some traditional parties now use anti-Roma rhetoric it could be the backdrop for more militant activities by neo-Nazis. Molotov cocktail attacks are cheap but also ‘effective’.”

Far-right extremists
What are some comprehensive steps the government should take?

“This is probably the most important conclusion of the study: to take steps towards prevention of the dissemination of extremist ideas among today’s youth. Repressive mechanisms already exist and work in the Czech Republic but I would say is a bigger problem is the lack of prevention programmes at primary and secondary schools.”