Friday, June 15, 2007

German Politician Proposes EU Databank on Radical Leftists

Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: "Black Bloc" leftists, who clashed with police at last week's G8 summit

Globalization summits still fuel radical left-wing protests that end up in violence. Now a conservative politician wants to set up a central databank that identifies left-wing radicals and stops them at the border.
Last summer, Germany hosted the World Cup soccer tournament for one month, where millions of fans watched the games in stadiums and on public viewing screens throughout the country. Remarkably there were no security breaches.

Last week, Germany hosted the G8 summit of the world's richest countries on the Baltic coast for three days from June 6-8. Cars were torched and riots broke out, injuring about 500 policemen and scores of anti-globalization activists in the prelude to the big event. "A total of 48 police helmets were demolished. That should give you an idea of the scale of violence," said Rüdiger Holecek, spokesman for Germany's Police Union in Berlin.

Centralized pan-European databank on left wing radicals

Now a politician from the center-right Christian Democratic party (CDU) wants to prevent such violent clashes from happening again. Uwe Schünemann, the state minister for internal affairs in Lower Saxony, has proposed setting up a pan-European databank that targets left-wing radicals. Many of them came from abroad and roiled this year's annual G8 summit in the seaside resort Heiligendamm.

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Most demonstrators were peaceful, but riots injured hundreds
Europol, the EU's criminal intelligence agency, should store data on those who have already been charged with violent acts, so that member states can access a central source to keep them out, said Schünemann.

The proposal has been criticized by Germany's opposition parties and even divided the CDU, but has strong backing from August Hanning, state secretary in the federal interior ministry and former head of the German Intelligence Agency (BND).

"We must closely monitor the (left-wing) scene, which is highly elusive, and use whatever means in our power within constitutional bounds, to infiltrate such groups, be it the use of phone taps or informants," said Hanning in the newsmagazine Der Spiegel.

Left-wing radicalism fueled by globalization summits

Autonome was a militant anti-establishment movement that reached its peak in the late 1970s and 1980s in Germany, as well as Italy and France. Since the movement's adherents wore black, they were also dubbed the Black Bloc in the media.

Today the Autonome scene has lost some of its steam, although globalization summits such as the G8 fuel anti-capitalistic protests that turn disruptive and violent, including one death in the Italian city of Genoa in 2001.

Unlike the dangerous soccer hooligans who were kept out of Germany during the World Cup, the nebulous nature of the Black Bloc makes those prone to violence hard to catch.

Profile of a political hooligan

"They have respectable jobs and blend in with the crowd, even down to their black Armani suits. Typically a politically motivated hooligan could be a former student activist from the 1970s, who harbors deep resentment against the establishment, so he lets out all that pent up energy by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the police," said Holecek.

Soccer hooligans on the other hand tend to be disaffected or jobless youth at the fringes of society, and easier for police to track. Efficient data exchange with other countries also enabled German authorities to keep them out during the World Cup, so European wide intelligence targeting the Black Bloc should also stop political hooligans at the border, according to Schünemann.

Critics of pan-European databank

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: "A databank that targets a specific group is unacceptable"
Critics question the merits of such a databank. "We need to take the necessary precautions, but without infringing on the legal rights of demonstrators. I doubt that we need a special database for the Autonomen," said Thomas de Maiziere, minister for special affairs in Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet in an interview with Germany's ARD network.

"Setting up a databank that targets a specific group is completely unacceptable. All it takes is membership in a black listed organization. You are labeled a suspect and become a databank entry before you've done anything criminal," said Werner Rätz, an activist affiliated with Attac, a network that is critical of globalization.

Hans-Christian Ströbele, a parliamentarian from the German Green party warned, "Europe-wide databases already exist. The question is whether this mountain of data will be misused, and infringe on the rights of innocent people.",2144,2609193,00.html

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