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UNITED Prague Conference Report: Days IV-V

Find Your Own Radical

The morning of Day IV (10 April) of the UNITED conference “Rewind Radicalisation: Building up strategies against extremism” opened with the panel “Find Your Own Radical”, which looked at the situation in different countries in Europe. The opening speaker was Pavel Klymenko of Football Against Racism Europe (FARE network). He talked about the work that FARE does to oppose racism and discrimination through education and engagement activities, as well as monitoring, where they bring the attention of football governing bodies like FIFA and UEFA to discrimination in football, leading to sanctions. “Football is universal – you can play football anywhere and you don’t need many resources to play it. It’s played all over the world. So we promote diversity using football.” He said.

He gave examples of how football can be used by both progressive and right-wing radicals, on the one hand welcoming refugees and expressing solidarity with marginalised groups, while on the other spreading radical right-wing, exclusive messages. Football violence, he said, is often connected to the far right, and football hooligans are often the foot soldiers of the anti-refugee movement. He gave the example of the slogan “Europe Awake”, a far-right slogan born in football hooligan movement. But  he also gave counter-examples of many groups of football fans all over Europe showing solidarity with refugees, LGBT+ people etc. he concluded with some examples of the work FARE does in getting high profile footballers to serve as role models, as well as engaging with fan communities.

The next speaker was Bulcsu Hunyadi of Political Capital (HU), an independent think tank, who talked about the situation in Hungary. He described how, in the past few years, the ruling party Fidesz has moved increasingly from the centre to the right-wing, while the radical right Jobbik party has, at least in outward appearances, gone in the other direction.

Talking about Jobbik, he said: “because they have never been in government, many people consider them to be the most credible opposition force.” The party initially started out as an extremist antisemitic, anti-Roma party, but in recent years has beein trying to present itself as a friendly youth-focused party; but there is a difference between the superficial image and the deeper reality. It now presents its main focus as corruption, attracting moderate voters who are critical of the government. But beneath the surface, the party is still as radical as ever: the party’s membership is the same right-wing radicals with antisemitic, anti-Roma, and anti-refugee views, and there are many connections between Jobbik and paramilitary groups.

At the same time the ruling party, Fidesz, Bulcsu said, is building an autocratic regime on the model of Putin’s Russia. The Fidesz-led government has transformed the legal, political, economic and media systems to secure power for the long term. The key tactic is to divide society into two conflicting groups: “good guys” (the government) who defend the national interest and protect national security and “bad guys”, foreign agents who serve the interests of outside forces. Most recently, the government has turned its attention to the businessman and philanthropist George Soros, attacking the CEU university that he founded as well as NGOs funded by his Open Society Foundations, in an attempt to silence independent and critical voices.

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He was followed by Ana Laura Lopez of Movimiento contra la Intolerancia (MCI). “The situation in Spain is better than that in most of Europe,” she said, “but still we know from our history that we must not be silent.” MCI started as reaction to hate crime in Spain, and continues to monitor hate crimes taking place in Spain. Since 1992, 92 people have been murdered, and there have been over 4000 aggressions every year. Many victims and their families are now part of the council of victims of hate crimes, a new initiative working with the objective of being a platform for victims so they can have a space where their voice can be heard. Although politically Spain doesn’t face the same political issues as other countries, Ana said that antiracists must be on guard; she gave a recent example of a bus travelling around Spain spreading transphobic messages. Another example of right-wing groups expressing solidarity with Golden Dawn in Greece. She talked about the growing popularity of far-right groups in Spain and how they offer a sense of belonging to disaffected young people, making the point that antiracist groups should do more to provide their own narratives etc.

The final speaker in the panel was Zdenka Streblova of Organizace pro pomoc uprchlíkům, z.s. (Organisation for Aid for Refugees), who gave an overview of the situation in the Czech Republic. While Czechia has an elected president, she said, the current president, Milos Zeman, does not represent the whole nation; since the death of Vaclav Havel, there is no figure who unites the whole nation. The national government is headed by Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and the populist ANO party headed by Andrej Babis “the Czech Berlusconi”. The Czech population is fairly ethnically homogeneous; the largest minority is Roma, and migrants mainly come from Ukraine and other nearby countries; officially there are only 3000 Muslims in the country. The country, she said, is quite xenophobic, with such sentiment traditionally focused on Roma but now turning towards “illegal migrants” – especially those from Muslim countries. There is currently little danger of radical right-wing groups entering parliament, but the populists might win the parliamentary elections later this year. She concluded by talking about the work OPU does in providing legal advice for asylum seekers and refugees, as well as with social programmes, regularly visiting refugee centres as well as prisons.

The panel was followed by a Q&A, where participants asked questions about the role of the church in right-wing radicalism, the particular situation with football hooliganism in Poland, the effectiveness of sanctions, and the importance of economic situation in radicalisation of young people

Following the “Find Your Own Radical” panel, participants continued in their “Rewind Your Mind” groups from the previous day (see below). This was followed by an afternoon in Prague, where participants met local NGOs and got the opportunity to take part in thematic tours of the city, looking at Prague’s Jewish heritage and recent history of migration.

Rewind Your Mind

The morning of Day v (11 April) opened with “We Think Forward”, a look back on the previous few days of the conference to refresh participants’ minds on what had happened so far. This was immediately followed by the continuation and finalisation of the “Rewind Your Mind” working groups. In the afternoon, the working groups presented their results to the rest of the participants.

The Campaigning group presented their idea for a campaign to “Erase Racism and Claim Public Space”, for which they would distribute kits for removing racist stickers and graffiti from public places.

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The Advocacy group opened by talking about an advertisement poster they saw during the week that they felt contained subtle racist and Orientalist imaginary. They used this as an example for their strategy to prevent such subtle racism being repeated and sensitise companies to related issues. They outlined their plans for an advocacy campaign, including awareness-raising and petitioning to get the advert removed.

The Education group came up with a thorough strategy for tackling radicalisation through education and in educational institutions. They made a video to explain their key points, which include organising intercultural activities, educating and empowering educators, and decolonising educational curricula.

The Community Organising team developed a strategy for community hall style events to bring together different stakeholders, including community and religious leaders, police, social workers and teachers, to create short, medium and long-term ideas for tackling radicalisation. The kinds of events, such as sports events and human libraries, that could be used to deradicalise young people include social and community activities that bring together conflicting groups.

Finally the Media group presented the outcome of their working group in a creative way, with a rap to the tune of “Gangster’s Paradise” – the refrain: “keep spreading stereotypes, this is how the media radicalise”. The key idea of their strategy is to challenge stereotypes in the media, media monitoring and promoting a more fair representation of marginalised groups in the media.

In the final formal activity of the conference, “Spinning the Net”, participants are taking part in a networking activity to find partners for future actions, and discussing in more depth how to implement the strategies they developed.

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This was followed by an open space evaluation session and formal closing remarks from the organisers. In the evening, participants bid farewell to Prague with an informal intercultural party.


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This conference is prepared by:

* Antikomplex, Czech Republic
* Bulgarian Red Cross – Refugees & Migrant Service
* EFSYN – Efimerida ton Sintakton, Greece
* Human Rights Association, Georgia
* Norsensus Mediaforum, Norway
* UNITED for Intercultural Action

In cooperation with:

* Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung e.V.
* Prague Spring II Network

This conference has been made possible with the financial support of:

* The European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe
* The Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union

The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position nor the opinion of our sponsors. Sponsors are not to be held responsible for any use that may be made of it.