European Far Right Seizes on French Riots

Mark John, Reuters, Nov. 11

BRUSSELS—Far-right groups across Europe are seizing on riots by the children of French immigrants as a potential vote-winner and intensifying their demands that governments halt immigration and toughen up nationality laws.

Some portray the violence as the seed of bloody ethnic civil war, or play on fears of Islamic radicalism to warn that today’s petrol bomb-hurling teenager could be tomorrow’s suicide bomber.

“The riots are fertile ground for the far right,” Thierry Balzacq, security and immigration analyst at Brussels think-tank Centre for European Policy Studies, said of riots that have sparked copycat violence in some of France’s neighbours.

“It gives them extra leverage on the waverers, those people on the verge of voting far-right. And we know that European democracies are full of that kind of voter,” he added.

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“These episodes are not by chance but are the direct consequence of various French Socialist governments which favoured indiscriminate immigration,” said Giacomo Stucchi of Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League party.

In a dig at rivals before April’s general election, Stucchi predicted that centre-left leader Romano Prodi would water down recent laws clamping down on illegal immigrants if elected.

Germany’s anti-immigrant NPD, which last year made headlines by winning seats in an eastern state assembly, said the riots showed attempts to found a multicultural Europe had failed.

“The NPD wishes foreigners a good trip home,” it said on its website, reiterating its calls for forced repatriations.

In the Netherlands, still traumatised by last year’s killing of film-maker Theo van Gogh, a critic of Islam, by an Islamist militant, anti-immigration campaigner Geert Wilders called on Monday for an end to immigration by “non-Western foreigners”.

Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of Denmark’s anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, went further, arguing this week that the French violence was tantamount to terrorism.

Her spokesman said by telephone the party believed that the seeds of terrorism could be found in the same environment as the violent riots in France.

Far-right groups in Belgium and Austria have also stepped up calls for immigration clampdowns, and the radical wing of Russia’s nationalists seized on the riots to push a “Russia for the Russians” message.

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