Udo Voigt is headed as the ‘Nazi-MEP’. He is the voice of the German right-wing party NPD in the European Parliament. Though, Mr. Voigt’s role is limited. His views often do not fall on sympathetic ears.
Twelve books stand in the tiny shelf, some brochures in between. Racism Legal? leans on Manual For The Basics In Asylums, Borders And Migration. On the left, one unpackaged and three packaged copies of Striking The Discord In The Middle Of Its Heart. The Author: Udo Voigt. Mr. Voigt’s deep voice hums next door, in the second room of the small office. He talks to his assistants.
It is not Mr. Voigt’s book which strikes most Europeans in the middle of their hearts, it is his curriculum vitae which breeds discord between the wish for democracy and the disgust against far right extremists. Mr. Voigt was leader of the ‘brown’ NPD for 16 years, he is one of the most influential men in the party’s history. Since July 2014, the NPD has had one seat in the EP. Now, the 62-year old Voigt splashes brown paint in the colorful pot of parties. The international press has yelped loudly – and even louder, when the ’Nazi-MEP‘ who ‘has called Hitler a great statesman’ became member of the LIBE committee.
The bookshelf in Udo Voigt’s office in Brussels.
Brussels: It is 9:35 and murmurs fill the Paul-Henri Spaak room in the building of the European Parliament. With the shoulder pads of his suit, Mr. Voigt resembles a grey granite figure with a white-haired head. The NPD representative sits in the middle of the wooden meeting room and speaks quietly into his phone. Dense fog lies over Brussels on this Thursday morning. Most planes have been delayed. The meeting of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has been postponed for an hour. Those MEPs present sit and stand together in small groups. The places around Mr. Voigt remain empty.
Why have you chosen to be in the LIBE committee?
I want to fight for the Human Rights of all citizens. This also includes national patriots. In Europe, they get imprisoned when they spell out their political views. For instance in Germany, it is not possible to express one’s opinion about the Holocaust.
Isn’t the Holocaust rather a historical fact than an opinion?
Well, one can have the opinion, that the facts the government serves us are not true. Either way: Also in Greece many members of the Golden Dawn are currently in prisons after they had expressed their political opinion. This is against human rights.
In this LIBE meeting, the plans of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office play a big role. Members of the committee ask questions, representatives of the Commission and the Council give answers. It is all about finances, credibility and the independence of national lawyers. In the end, Mr. Voigt raises his voice. His question does not really fit in the pool of previously asked ones. „Germany doesn’t fulfill the General Equal Treatment Act. It excludes itself, when it comes to discrimination because of political opinion. Is the Commission going to accept this?“, he asks. Mr. Voigt vainly waits for an answer. He takes it calmly. He wouldn’t have expected an answer anyway, he says.
Does the Parliament hear your voice?
Of course they hear my voice. Otherwise they wouldn’t answer.
You didn’t get your answer in this LIBE meeting…
That’s right. But only, because they would have to strain Germany with their answers. One doesn’t do this in the European Parliament. But take a look at the statistics. There you can see the number of contributions in the committee meetings. I have more than some MEPs managed to collect in five years.
How do you react, when your questions are ignored?
I will ask the same things again and again in the next meetings. Slowly but surely, the contents will sink into the soil of the Parliament.
“Of course Right-wing MEPs slow our progress down, in different issues! We are always too slow, especially when it comes to immigration“, Sophie in t’Veld says. The Dutch MEP of the social-liberal Democrats 66 is the vice-chairman of the LIBE Committee. She seems upset, her brown curls bob up and down, when she speaks. “It is deeply unpleasant to have them in the committees. You hear voices you don’t really want to hear“, Ms. in t’Veld says. But still she is sure: right-wing MEPs have less influence in the European Parliament.
According to Ms. in t’Veld, there are not a lot of eurosceptic and national orientated MEPs in the Parliament, but they are concentrated in certain committees and delegations. “That’s how they can dominate some discussions“, she says. The D66 MEP also promotes right-wing MEPs having a voice in the Parliament. It makes their ideas and plans transparent. „This is a great step in terms of democracy“, Ms. in t’Veld says.
Assistant Florian Stein and MEP Udo Voigt in a café.
Mr. Voigt’s office is in a grey wing on the second floor of the building of the Parliament. No posters decorate the walls of the corridors, whereas in other parts of the EP, Karl Marx looks down at you. MEPs who have their office in this corridor are non-attached members. That means: less funding, no speaking minutes in the plenary assembly and no high positions in the committees. Non-attached members can only raise their voice in their delegations and committees. Besides the LIBE Committee, Mr. Voigt sits in the ten-person Iran-Delegation.
How are the plans for a national alliance going?
Ms Marine Le Pen doesn’t want me in her group. The NPD and my person are not accepted there. That’s why there is no national alliance at this moment.
Why are you not accepted?
Marine de Pen wants to become head of the French government. She doesn’t want to drag the ballast of the NPD with her and I can understand this on a personal level. The NPD’s reputation is a bit negative.
Do you want to change that? Do you want to make friends in Parliament?
Sure, I will. It is only possible through personal contacts. My goal is it to earn acceptance from national partners that still see the NPD as a dirty dog.
In order to found a political group in the EP, 25 MEPs from at least seven different member states are necessary. Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing Front National, has failed with plans for a national alliance because of the latter. Mr. Voigt is confident: After the national elections in France, Ms. Le Pen could change her opinion and build up a national alliance together with him, the ’Nazi-MEP’.
Thank you for the insights Mr. Voigt…
I hope after this, you don’t think we are child-eating monsters anymore.
Mr. Voigt and his assistant Florian Stein turn around and walk slowly towards the EP building. In front of the huge Parliament, they are only two disappearing dots.