Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

  • The AfD is Germany's third largest party and is polling to return 13 MEPs in May (Photo: strassenstriche.net)

Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, is to start monitoring the far-right AfD party in a move endorsed by the government, but decried as a political witch-hunt by the party's leaders.

"The BfV has initial indications that the AfD's policies are against the democratic constitutional order," Thomas Haldenwang, the BfV head, told press in Berlin on Tuesday (15 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • "We will take legal action", the AfD's Alexander Gauland said (Photo: Reuters)

"But those indications are not sufficiently concentrated to start monitoring the party using espionage methods," he added.

He classified the AfD as a "case to investigate" and said monitoring would be based on open sources.

But the project could lead to full surveillance if the AfD was later deemed "suspicious" and "a threat to the liberal democratic principles of Germany's constitution".

Full surveillance would already be deployed against two of the AfD's offshoots - The Wing and Young Alternative - the BfV added, however.

The Wing is an extreme-right group led by the AfD's regional boss in Thuringia, Bjoern Hoecke.

Its aim was to "marginalise, disparage, and disenfranchise foreigners, migrants, especially Muslims" and to play down Nazi crimes, the BfV said in a statement.

The Young Alternative is the AfD's youth branch and is suspected of having ties with the Identitarian Movement - a white-supremacist group, which is already under full BfV surveillance.

The BfV spoke out on Tuesday after trawling through 182 speeches by 50 AfD members, including 80 hours of video footage and 1,069 pages of text, as well as Facebook material, over the past four months.

Regional security services in Bremen, Lower Saxony, and Thuringia had also investigated the AfD in recent months.

The BfV move was endorsed by German foreign minister Heiko Maas and interior minister Horst Seehofer.

"Whoever discriminates against people on the basis of their origins is being racist and nationalist. Parts of the AfD are a case for the domestic intelligence office," Maas said.

"We also assessed this extensive study ourselves. We think it's plausible and that is why I support these decisions," Seehofer said.

Seehofer conceded that the BfV step had "political importance", in terms of stigmatising the AfD in the eyes of mainstream conservative voters.

"But I attach great importance to the fact that this is not a decision made by politicians, but made by the constitutional protection authorities," he added.

The AfD said it would challenge the BfV in court.

"We will take legal action against this decision," AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said, blaming the move on "political pressure".

"With Mr Maassen this decision would not have been possible at all, so he had to go, so they created these hunts, and now we have this decision," Alice Weidel, another AfD co-leader said.

Hans-Georg Maassen was Thomas Haldenwang's predecessor as BfV head.

But he was forced out of his post last year after denying reports of racist riots in the German city of Chemnitz and meeting with AfD leaders in what he called his personal, or "ex-officio", capacity.

The AfD's Hoecke, who previously called Germany's Holocaust memorial a "monument of shame" and who said it should make a "180-degree turnaround in [its] politics of [WW2] remembrance", also attacked the investigation.

"I'm already sorry for the officials who have to kill their time looking for things that do not exist," he said.

The AfD started out in 2013 in opposition to Germany's bailout of Greece.

It entered the German parliament in 2017, winning 94 out of 709 seats to become the country's third largest party.

It is also represented in all 16 of Germany's regional parliaments.

It has just one MEP, but is polling to win up to 13 out of Germany's 96 European Parliament (EP) seats in the European elections in May, with a manifesto to quit the euro and to dissolve the EP, among other ideas.

"Observing them won't solve the problems. Above all, we need to deal with the AfD objectively and politically," Maas, the German foreign minister, added on Tuesday.

The BfV move came after an AfD politician, Frank Magnitz, was beaten up last week in the city of Bremen in what police called a politically-motivated attack.

German intelligence has in the past also monitored Die Linke, a German far-left party.

Germany's AfD divided by Le Pen meeting

Far-right parties are planning to launch a joint anti-EU campaign, but their attempt at a show of unity has highlighted differences within Germany's anti-system AfD.

Germany led way on EU rights protection

Germany led the way on protection of human rights this year, but Hungary, Italy, and Poland "undermined the EU's moral standing" on the world stage, a leading NGO said.

Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news

The European Commission has branded the latest campaign by the Hungarian government as 'fake news', after Orban's government accused Juncker of pressing ahead with migration proposals that threaten the country's security.

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us