Michael Kappeler/Getty Images
Frank Henkel addresses a press conference in Berlin on September 19th. The Interior Minister has called for a ban on the populist NPD party.
Frank Henkel addresses a press conference in Berlin on September 19th. The Interior Minister has called for a ban on the populist NPD party. Michael Kappeler/Getty Images
Berlin's newly appointed Interior Minister called for a ban on the right-wing populist NPD party at a meeting of Germany's interior ministers in Wiesbaden.
Minister Frank Henkel (CDU) said a clear signal must be sent to what he called right-wing extremists.
"I believe the interior ministers will intensify the fight against right-wing extremists and agree on a common strategy moving forward," Henkel said on the first day of the three-day conference, which started Wednesday.
Calls for an end to the NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) have been growing since the arrest of ex-party functionary, Ralf Wohlleben, in connection with a series of racially motivated murders.
Wohlleben is suspected of having aided Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, who made up the far-right Zwickau cell accused of committing at least ten murders, mostly of immigrants, between 2000 and 2007.
Berlin's newly formed CDU/SPD cross-party government also announced a legally binding ban on the NPD as one of its main aims during the presentation of its coalition agreement last week. If the courts approve the measure, the NPD's headquarters in the Berlin district of Köpenick would have to be dissolved. The party would also lose its mandates on the Lichtenberg, Marzahn-Hellersdorf and Treptow-Köpenick district councils.
Berlin Mayor, Klaus Wowereit (SPD), told party members on Sunday that a "quick ban" on the NPD is necessary. The state must guarantee protection for immigrants and all of its citizens, he said.
Not everyone thinks an outright ban on the NPD is the right move. Oliver Igel, the SPD Mayor of Treptow Köpenick (an NPD stronghold), told Die Tageszeitung that the problem of right-wing extremism will not disappear with the NPD. It's much more important for society to engage in open debate, he says.
A previous attempt to dissolve the NPD was rejected by the German Constitutional Court in 2003 because of the presence of police informants in top NPD positions. The court ruled that the party could not be prohibited as its policies may have been partly shaped by law enforcement agencies.
The NPD failed to win seats on the Berlin Senate in September's elections, but gained seats in three district parliaments. It also came under fire during the election campaign for what were described as xenophobic campaign posters.