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Czech government unveils strategy to combat rise in far-right extremism
05-05-2009 - Ian Willoughby
In one of its final acts before leaving office, the Czech government has just approved a new strategy to deal with a rise in far-right extremism. The release of the plan follows a period in which neo-Nazis, said to be increasingly organised, have attacked members of the Roma minority and clashed with the police. But what actual measures will be taken to deal with the far-right?

Ivan Langer, photo: CTK A recent petrol bomb attack on a Romany family’s home in Vítkov, north Moravia left a 22-month-old girl fighting for her life, and many in the Czech Republic shocked. However, presenting a new strategy to combat far-right extremism, Interior Minister Ivan Langer said the government had been worried about the problem for some time, and that his ministry had begun preparing the document in November.

“The year 2008 was a turning point on the extremist scene in the Czech Republic. There was greater radicalisation – and, in quotation marks, professionalisation – in the activities of far-right extremists. More than previously they are attempting to enter politics and to become a political player, with political influence and with political power.”

Photo: CTK So how is the government planning to respond to this threat? There is a large emphasis in the new strategy on education and information. Municipal authorities will be given manuals on how to deal with innocent looking applications to hold public meetings that could actually be from the far right. For instance, dates such as Hitler’s birthday will be highlighted to alert officials’ attention if some group wants to gather on that day.

“If that happens on such anniversaries, and the applications come from this or that political party or group, then if local authorities are sufficiently educated and have sufficient information on the subject they shouldn’t be afraid to say no to such gatherings.”

If trouble does occur, “flying courts” could officiate, said Minister Langer.

“By the turn of the year we will be able to have a court on the spot, in the back of a lorry, which could take perpetrators in at the front door and send them off to jail by the back door. But that’s just one part, just the end of the whole process. For me the key thing is that an informed and educated person is clearly better able to resist simple solutions, be they an ordinary citizen, mayor, teacher, police officer, or judge.”

Monday’s presentation of the new anti-extremism strategy was one of Ivan Langer’s final acts as interior minister. The task of actually implementing it will fall to future Czech governments.

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