Germany’s Scholz calls for unity against far-right after MEP seriously hurt

Chancellor’s appeal comes after four assailants brutally attacked a politician who was campaigning in eastern Germany.

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned that democracy was threatened by attacks like the one on Matthias Ecke [File: John Thys/AFP]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for people to stand together against far-right activism after a politician was attacked while campaigning for the European parliamentary elections.

Matthias Ecke was seriously injured and brought to hospital for treatment after four assailants attacked him as he was putting up campaign posters in the eastern German city of Dresden late on Friday evening, police said.

The 41-year-old is a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and a current lawmaker in the European Parliament.

“Democracy is threatened by something like this, and that is why shrugging our shoulders is never an option,” Scholz said on Saturday during a congress for the upcoming European elections in the German capital Berlin. “We must stand together against it.”

The fact that such things happen also has something to do with the speeches that are made and the moods that are created, said Scholz, referring to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Shortly before Ecke’s assault, 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,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement, saying the attack on Ecke was also an “attack on democracy”.

Member of the European Parliament Matthias Ecke walks in Dresden, Germany, April 20, 2024. Ecke, member of the EU Parliament for the Social Democrats (SPD), standing for re-election next month, was seriously injured while putting up posters in the eastern city of Dresden, the SPD said. The 41-year old was hit and kicked and had to be taken to hospital, the interior ministry of the state of Saxony wrote in a statement. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel
Matthias Ecke, a member of the EU Parliament for the Social Democrats (SPD), was seriously injured in an attack in Dresden [File: Matthias Rietschel/Reuters]

‘Extremists and populists’

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola was one of many European politicians to sympathise with 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, according to government figures published in January.

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

Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency says far-right extremism is the biggest threat to German democracy.

A surge in support for the far-right 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.

Greens party politicians face the most aggression, according to 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.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies