Scholz told to ‘take matters very seriously’ as far-right surge threatens EU

Far-right extremism in Germany is sparking warnings for Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the risk of “destabilisation of the country” after more arrests were made this week of suspects allegedly linked to a plot for the overthrowing of the government.

Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that criminal police have detained three more suspected far-right extremists who are linked to an alleged plot by the Reichsbuerger, or Reich Citizens, movement to topple the country’s government.

The three suspects, who were only identified as Johanna F.-J., Hans-Joachim H. and Steffen W. in line with German privacy rules, were detained Monday evening in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

The defendants are suspected of membership in a terrorist organisation, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Reacting to the news, Fellow Researcher of the Henry Jackson Society, Dr Helena Ivanov, told “Obviously, Mr Scholz needs to take matters very seriously and start making medium and long-term plans to calm the situation down – otherwise, he risks not only his leadership ability being called into question but destabilising the country, which is likely to have implications for the rest of the EU.

“The EU should be very concerned. Indeed the rise of the far right is now more of a commonality than an outlier, and we are witnessing something which could be called a domino effect across Europe.

“To deal with this, the EU needs a series of urgent talks through which they need to achieve three things. First, they need to understand the grievances among European citizens which are causing the rise of far-right sentiment. Second, the EU needs to find adequate responses and policies to address the dissatisfaction and mitigate the impact of far-right political parties on discourses across the bloc.

“Finally, it needs to start thinking preemptively – we already know that the far right danger is looking over France and rather than wait for the next general election, the EU and the French government need to start making plans now. Otherwise, they risk more countries electing far-right governments which would further complicate an already very difficult picture in the EU.”

In December, German police detained 25 people including a self-styled prince, a retired paratrooper and a former judge who are accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

Adherents of the Reich Citizens movement reject Germany’s postwar constitution and have called for bringing down the government.

Authorities say the three people who were arrested Monday evening were linked in different ways to the suspects of the alleged coup attempt.

Johanna F.J. is suspected of having been active in the association since May 2022, participating in several meetings with members of the leadership, during which the goals and organisation of the group were discussed. In addition, she allegedly sought contact with a Russian consul general and subsequently met with him twice. The talks were intended to obtain support for the association’s actions, prosecutors say.

Hans-Joachim H. is suspected of having been active for the group from the very beginning, providing it with financial contributions totalling more than 140,000 euros. In addition, he allegedly actively participated in conspiratorial meetings, in events to recruit new members and in so-called sponsor meetings.

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Steffen W. is suspected of having joined the association no later than July 2022, and to have assumed a leading role in a so-called homeland security company, in which he assumed the function of a military officer. The defendant allegedly participated in several coordination meetings. His task was to recruit personnel for his area of responsibility and to train them militarily, prosecutors said.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency warned of a rise in anti-government extremism.

Thomas Haldenwang told the AP that coup plots such as those disrupted last year likely won’t be the last as some “are again talking about a ‘Day X’ when certain things are meant to happen.”

“We are monitoring such efforts very intensively, very carefully, and I’m certain that we will be able to intervene in time together with other security agencies,” he said. “But I can’t completely rule out that groups will forms under the radar of the security agencies.”

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