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Death of leading neo-Nazi set to cripple far-right

One of the driving forces of neo-Nazism in Germany, Jürgen Rieger, has died after suffering a stroke, his far-right National Democratic Party announced on its website Friday morning.

Death of leading neo-Nazi set to cripple far-right
The late Jürgen Rieger. Photo: DPA

The 63-year-old Hamburg lawyer and NPD deputy chairman had been in a coma since Saturday night, when he suffered a stroke at a meeting of the party’s leadership in Berlin.

He was rushed to hospital, where his condition steadily worsened.

Rieger’s son Harald said the family was considering a cremation or a burial at sea because they did not want his grave to become a neo-Nazi pilgrimage site.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), a government agency that monitors extremists, said Rieger’s death was a serious blow for the far-right movement.

Rieger was a key fund-raiser for the cash-strapped NPD, which was slapped with a €1.27 million fine in May for accounting irregularities.

The BfV’s Lower Saxony president, Günter Heiß, said on Friday that Rieger’s death would leave a hole in the far right scene that could not be quickly filled.

“I don’t see any such prominent personality,” he said. “Rieger was a one-of-a-kind phenomenon in right-wing extremism, because he was hyperactive in many areas. He was on the go, around the clock, on right-wing extremist issues.

“He was unbelievably hard-working.”

Rieger was particularly energetic in attempting to acquire property for far-right activities. He made news in August when he tried to buy an old hotel to convert into a neo-Nazi training centre in Lower Saxony, sparking a tense standoff between right-wing extremists and police.

Rieger was thought to have contributed several hundred thousand euros to far-right causes. But Heiß said it was not clear whether any of his assets, estimated at about €500,000, would be bequeathed to the NPD.

POLITICS

EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.

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