Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

MEPs probe funding of anti-Jewish book

European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering has said no EU money was used to print an anti-Semitic booklet by Polish MEP Maciej Giertych, adding he is "profoundly troubled" by the text and that racism is "against fundamental European values."

The 30-page booklet by Mr Giertych, which carries a prominent European Parliament logo on the front cover, says Jews like to settle "among the rich" and "create their own ghettos." It also speaks of Jewish "biological separation" leading to differences in facial features.

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The 71-year old Polish deputy sent the text - called "Civilisations at War in Europe" - to fellow MEPs and is now distributing it through his website. Mr Giertych - a botanist by background - last year caused outrage by praising Spain's former fascist dictator, Franco.

The European Jewish Congress in Paris on Friday (16 February) said the book contains "the same pre-war theories that led to the Holocaust" and called for Mr Giertych to lose his parliamentary immunity. A spokesman for the European Commission called the MEP's ideas "repugnant."

"Mr Poettering condemns [the text], but there is no ex-ante scrutiny of MEPs' publications," his spokeswoman told EUobserver. "You cannot ask members to submit what they want to publish in advance. Freedom of speech is an important right in the European Parliament."

She added that under Rules 9, 146 and 147 of parliament procedure, MEPs who violate "fundamental values of the EU" can also be excluded from sessions and lose financial allowances. But the primary aim of these rules is misbehaviour in plenary itself, the spokeswoman explained.

The issue of hate crime is high on the German EU presidency's agenda, with Berlin currently pushing EU states to pass a new law criminalising "public incitement to violence or hatred, even by dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material."

The Giertych book comes at a sensitive time for the European Parliament, which last month saw the endowment of a new far-right political group led by French MEP Bruno Gollnisch, recently fined €55,000 for Holocaust denial in France.

The booklet is also embarrassing for Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has formed a ruling coalition with Maciej Giertych's party, the League of Polish Families, and who gave Mr Giertych's son, Roman, the job of education minister.

Last August the Polish PM made a big speech in Brussels, claiming he has "excellent relations" with Israel, that the notion of Polish anti-Semitism is a "myth" and that the anti-Semitic "fringe" in Polish politics is undergoing profound change.

But education minister Giertych-junior declined to distance himself from his father's ideas at a press conference in Brussels on Friday, saying it was not his place to comment, he had not read his father's book and that the quotes he had seen in the press were probably out of context.

Analysis

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Angela Merkel's failure to form a coalition government has raised concerns in Europe that the EU's most powerful country will send the block into paralysis.

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