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26/06/2016

Golden Dawn thugs disrupt European Parliament meeting

EU Priorities 2020

Golden Dawn thugs disrupt European Parliament meeting

Fountoulis berates Csaba Sógor.

EXCLUSIVE / Golden Dawn thugs, led by two Greek nationalist MEPs, disrupted an event held in the European Parliament yesterday (2 March), screaming at those present to “shut up” and leaving them “frozen with fear”.

Video footage obtained by EurActiv.com shows Romanian MEP Csaba Sógor (Christian Democrats) bravely standing up to the five-strong mob, one sporting the distinctive Golden Dawn Swastika on his hip.

Golden Dawn MEPs Lampros Fountoulis and General Eleftherios Synadinos left with the men, after repeated warnings that security would be called to the room in the Parliament’s Spinelli building.

The debate on Greek laws banning minority associations from describing themselves as Turkish went ahead.

The “Turkish” minority can only legally be referred to as the “Muslim” minority, a legacy of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and a sign of the strained relations between Turkey and Greece.

The video shows MEP Fountoulis, flanked by his men, accusing Sógor of being paid by Ankara, and boasting he was there to “protect” Greece.

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One Parliament-accredited Golden Dawn activist shouts at Sógor before turning on a  seated researcher. Standing over him he repeatedly yells “shut up” in his face, as frightened delegates look on.

The standoff is only defused when Fountoulis says “Let’s go” to his group. The men file slowly out of the meeting, which was organised by the European People’s Party, the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe, and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.

“I was a little afraid, but I had to tell them to leave the room,” Sógor, a member of Romania’s Hungarian minority, later told EurActiv. “To be a democrat means you cannot be afraid.”

Günther Dauwen, director of the European Free Alliance (EFA) party, said, “This was not part of parliamentary democratic culture. This was scare tactics. On the video you can see participants frozen with fear.

“Violence wasn’t far from happening. The fact that some people were filming this might have stopped them going any further.”

EurActiv has sent the footage to the office of European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and we understand at least one official complaint will be lodged in the coming days. Sources later confirmed an investigation would be held.

‘Fascist’

The gang’s intimidating behaviour was compared to the bullyboy tactics used by extreme right gangs in 1930s and 1940s Europe.

Catalan MEP Josep Maria Terricabras branded Golden Dawn’s behaviour “fascist”.

Paolo Baglioni, 27, is an EFA researcher, who was at the event. He said, “People were shocked and disgusted.

“They showed an anti-democratic attitude that relies on violence, aggression and verbal disruption of people who do not hold their views.”

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Participants said the aggression was clearly planned, with the men in the Spinelli building room before the event was due to begin at 3PM.  Three Golden Dawn MEPs, including the two who were there, circulated a letter protesting the debate beforehand.

Golden Dawn has been accused of disrupting political opponents’ meetings in Greece but this is thought to be the first time they have tried similar tactics in the European Parliament.

EurActiv tried to contact Fountoulis for comment last night by phone. An email asking for comment has been sent, and the story will be updated if a response is received.

The Golden Dawn letter had asked for the immediate cancellation of the event, which it said was a breach of the Lausanne Treaty, and an apology for the “provocation”.

Three Golden Dawn MEPs were elected in 2014’s European Parliament elections, part of a surge in support for far-right parties across the EU.

After publication of this story, another video of the incident was obtained by EurActiv.

Background

The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) recognised modern Turkey as a state and also guaranteed protection for the Christian Orthodox minority in Turkey, and the Muslim minority in Greece. It was signed after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire brought about by the Turkish defeat in the First World War.