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10th Dec 2022

EU gathering intelligence on right-wing extremist threats

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The EU is gathering intelligence on right wing extremist threats for a wider assessment, said the European Commission.

The comment by EU transparency and values commissioner Vera Jourova on Wednesday (19 October) in Strasbourg comes amid the recent shooting deaths outside an LGBT bar in Slovakia.

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Slovak media identified the shooter as the homophobe son of a former candidate for a far-right political party.

Jourova said the commission, along with EU states and the EU's police agency Europol, are gathering "internal intelligence to draw up assessments of the terrorist and right wing extremists threats."

It also follows a recent US intelligence brief that Russia gave far-right politicians cash, expensive gifts, electronic funds, and cryptocurrency. Some of those recipients include European think tanks and foundations in support of far-right nationalist parties.

The commission had announced at an earlier debate in Strasbourg it wants to see the US intelligence report.

That determination has cast a long shadow over more mainstream political groupings like the centre-right European People's Party, where some far-right politicians had in the past found refuge.

Among them is Italian politician and centre-right MEP Silvio Berlusconi whose close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin has come under increased scrutiny.

In a leaked audio clip published by Italian media outlet LaPress, the three-time prime minister can be heard saying he had rekindled his relationship Putin.

"For my birthday he sent me 20 bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter," Berlusconi said in the audio clip.

"I replied with bottles of Lambrusco and an equally very sweet letter," he said.

"Russian ministers have said on many occasions that we are at war with them because we are providing weapons and funding to Ukraine," he added.

Following the publication of the audio, Forza Italia said the statements were in fact referring to previous contacts with the Kremlin.

EU sanctions have also been slapped on the import of Russian vodka, posing questions on whether the gift may have fallen foul of the rules.

"Implementation of the sanctions is the responsibility of the member states," a European Commission spokesperson told reporters in Brussels when queried about vodka.

But Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party are also currently forming a government with the far-right Brothers of Italy under the likely premiership of Georgia Meloni.

The alliance between conservatives and the far-right has since riled other political parties in the European Parliament.

Iratxe García Pérez, who leads the centre-left Socialists, described such alliances as "whitewashing."

"The problem is that extreme right wing populism undermines institutions," she said.

"A parliamentary majority does not justify laws that persecute minorities, violate their rights, and undermines the legal framework," she said.

The remarks were also geared towards Sweden, whose new three-party government agreed to demands against migration made by the far-right election winner Sweden Democrats.

This includes cutting the UN quota to resettle recognised refugees from 5,000 a year to 900.

Tomas Tobe, a centre-right Swedish MEP, said that criticism against the new government were unjustified.

"You need to accept the outcome of the elections in Sweden," he said.

Tobe heads the European Parliament's committee on development. He is also spearheading key policy on EU-wide asylum and migration reform.

Sweden is set to take over the six-month rotating EU presidency in January.

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