World / Politics

British far-right leader Griffin courts European allies


A far-right British political party’s leader said Friday that extreme nationalist groups across Europe will seek to forge an alliance after the European Parliament elections in May, despite being isolated by an emerging populist right.

British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin said parties likely to join the alliance would include the Jobbik party in Hungary and Greece’s Golden Dawn, which has seen a surge in popular support during the country’s major financial crisis.

Golden Dawn leaders, who have openly expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, deny any party involvement in frequent street attacks against immigrants despite mounting accusations to the contrary.

“We are all being demonized and dehumanized . . . so I think it’s only logical that the ‘devils’ have to stand together,” Griffin, currently a non-aligned member of the European Parliament, told The Associated Press in an interview.

European nationalists are expected to make gains in the May 22-25 polls, but most have distanced themselves from the extreme right, according to Anders Widfeldt, a lecturer in politics and international affairs at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

“There is a general sense that immigration-critical and EU-critical parties will increase their support in the new European Parliament. . . . That’s a big concern to established parties,” he said in an interview. “But there’s a distinction between those who see themselves as more mainstream and who are aiming to become legitimate cooperation partners with mainstream parties in their own countries. They see a party like Golden Dawn as far too extreme and tainted by the accusations against them.”

Griffin said he expected BNP allies to win seats in at least five of the 28 EU countries, gaining support as financial troubles spread.

“If we go as we are now, with instability in some countries but no catastrophe within Europe, then I think it’s quite possible that the softer way (of nationalism) will gain more support,” he said. “If, on the other hand, we hit a position where the whole of Europe — as this financial catastrophe unwinds — is in the same position as Greece, then they will want a radical alternative.”

Griffin was in Athens to support plans by Golden Dawn to launch an international challenge against the pre-trial detention of the party’s leader and two lawmakers after their arrest in September on charges of belonging to a criminal organization.

Party officials said they would present their case this week to the Council of Europe’s Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Greek human rights lawyer Christos Gramatidis called that decision ironic.

“Golden Dawn is a party that systematically slanders the European Court (of Human Rights). It has named it an instrument of the Jews, of the new order, and so on, and they have opposed each and every one of the rulings of the court including same sex couples, (rights for) Roma and minorities,” Gramatidis, of the group Greek Helsinki Monitor, said. “So it’s ironic that these people are now invoking the protection of the European courts. But this is the majesty of democracy.”