How different are France and Germany’s approaches to managing extreme right-wing movements? Bénédicte Laumond, lecturer in political science at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, reveals the contrasting policies.
What policies does France have to combat right-wing radicalism?
France has no real public policy against right-wing radicalism. However, the public authorities take measures to curb certain right-wing extremist groups, for example by monitoring the activities of the most violent ones. When the judiciary sentences radical right-wing activists for hate speech, it also regulates the activities of this political faction.
How can France better equip itself to combat this problem?
It is possible to transfer certain German measures to France, but they must be adapted to the French political culture, which is characterised by a watertight division, in people’s minds, between radical right-wing parties such as the Rassemblement National and non-party radical right-wing groups, which are more prone to violence.
For most French people, it is unacceptable to touch the former, while the latter can be the subject of measures that are, for the moment, repressive. The introduction of preventive initiatives to limit the influence of the latter could be an interesting option.
How is Germany different in its approach?
In Germany, right-wing radicalism is framed as a potential threat to the liberal democratic order, justifying the implementation of a coordinated set of repressive and preventive measures. In 1949, Germany enshrined in its constitution the need to guard against so-called extremist movements, i.e. those actively opposed to the values enshrined in the constitution.
As a result, the Germans have developed a series of interrelated measures to contain the influence of extremist groups. Over the past twenty years, the German authorities, supported by a mobilised civil society, have invested heavily in the development of federal, regional and local programmes to prevent right-wing radicalism.
These programmes fund civil society initiatives to combat right-wing radicalism on the ground, from programs to help radical activists disengage, to popular education projects and cultural events to promote tolerance.