Germany denounces rising political violence as MEP hospitalised

Minister accuses populists of fomenting hatred following attack on politician

German interior minister Nancy Faeser said the attack on Matthias Ecke, a German member of the European Parliament, was 'an attack on democracy'. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

German interior minister Nancy Faeser on Saturday vowed to fight a surge in violence against politicians after a German member of the European Parliament was taken to hospital after being attacked while campaigning for re-election.

Matthias Ecke (41), a member of Faeser’s Social Democrats (SPD), was hit and kicked by a group of four people while putting up posters in Dresden, capital of the eastern state of Saxony, police said. An SPD source said his injuries would require an operation.

Shortly before, what appeared to be the same group attacked a 28-year-old campaigner for the Greens, who was also putting up posters, police said, although his injuries were not as grievous.

“The constitutional state must and will respond to this with tough action and further protective measures for the democratic forces in our country,” Ms Faeser said, saying the attack on Mr Ecke was also an “attack on democracy”.

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European Parliament president Roberta Metsola was one of many European politicians to sympathise with Mr Ecke, saying in a post on X that she was “horrified by the vicious attack”.

Nationwide, the number of attacks on politicians of parties represented in parliament has doubled since 2019, government figures published in January show.

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Ms Faeser said the verbal hostility of extremists and populists towards democratic politicians was partly responsible for the rise in violence.

The BfV domestic intelligence agency says far-right extremism is the biggest threat to German democracy. A surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) over the past year has taken it to second place in nationwide polls.

The AfD is particularly strong in the eastern states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. Surveys suggest it will come first in regional elections in all three this September.

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Greens party politicians face the most aggression, according to the government data, with attacks on them rising sevenfold since 2019 to 1,219 last year. AfD politicians suffered 478 attacks and the SPD was third with 420.

Theresa Ertel, a Greens candidate in municipal elections in Thuringia this month, said she knew of party members who no longer wanted to stand because of the aggressive political atmosphere.

The Greens in her region had agreed that information stands should always have at least three staff for extra safety. – Reporting by Sarah Marsh, Andreas Rinke and Christian Ruettger in Berlin, Additional Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels

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