Publisert med forbehold om endringer under fremførelsen.
Your Excellency, Madame President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
Members of Parliament,
I’d like to open with a few lines by the Norwegian poet Helge Torvund:
“When the summer exploded/ And the petals of July/ Burned down/ With the bitter smoke/ Of death/ And the pavement turned red/ What was our answer? / Never a bomb in our name/ Never a gunshot/ In the name of youth/ Let us never forget/ We don’t want revenge/ We will win/ with peace”.
The poem is called “The Answer” – the answer to the brutal violence on the tiny island of Utøya and the bombing in Oslo on 22 July 2011 by a home-grown terrorist.
The answer from the scores of Norwegians, who poured onto the streets in the days that followed, was less one of demanding retribution than of sending out a message of defiance. People marched in silence, many carrying a single rose to remember the 77 victims. It was, in the words of the then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, a message of “even more democracy, even more openness, but never naivety”.
At a time of unprecedented grief, Norwegians preserved a sense of normality and stability by sticking to the rule of law. The terrorist was to stand trial, a trial which would have a broader impact on our society as a whole. It confirmed our fundamental values.
Today’s debate is hugely important. Hate affronts and attacks our equality of esteem and human dignity, values that are fundamental to all member states of the Council of Europe. In your resolution, you call for an end to the protection of hatemongering, both with reference to the right to free speech and with the tacit acceptance of the majority. We need to slow down hate, not help it on its way.
For this reason, my congratulations go to the rapporteur, Ms Pourbaix-Lundin, and to the Committee for helping set a standard and making a stand against the unacceptable. As parliamentarians, you are well-placed to expose advocates of hate in public debates and fight their rhetoric and hate-filled ideology. Xenophobia, racism and nationalist extremism require a resolute response from all, regardless of political divisions.
Some of you may have seen that Ms Anne Brasseur and I were wearing identical T-shirts at the University of Oslo three weeks ago – T-shirts we had received from the youth activists who hope that 22 July will become a joint European day to commemorate the victims of hate crime. The white T-shirts sported a red heart containing two words: “No hate”. I for one strongly support this youth initiative, and I hope these young people have convinced many others of you sitting in this room today.
Hate has a chilling effect on speech and stifles public debate.
Last month, young Muslims in Oslo organised a demonstration against radical Islam. 19 year old Faten MehdiAl-Husseini stood in front of the Parliament and spoke up against the hate and extremism of a group called the Prophet’s Ummah, which actively supports the group Islamic State. As one of the initiators of the protest, she received serious threats after the demonstration. The media was right to describe her as a brave person. But her bravery is also part of the problem – you should not have to be brave to participate in a democratic dialogue.
Actual incitement to hate crime should be combated with the full force of the law, but controversial words should be countered by more speech.
I would like to caution those who try to demonize extremist parties and, by extension, their voters. Demonization shuts down communication and preserves ignorance. Demonization is counterproductive to fighting extremism. In the case of voters, it also lumps together a broad range of people and masks their differences. Tagging people is unwise; it runs the risk of unintentionally generating support for these extremist groups.
What we really need to do is to consider the reasoning behind the votes cast and to take these voters seriously. As you point out in the resolution, public anxiety over threats to jobs and the welfare state may cause a shift in support to populist extremists. These parties also carry an appeal to voters who are anxious about the cultural impact of immigration and increasing diversity. As mainstream politicians, we must address this allure of a society frozen in time, of a static and unchanging culture.
Some commentators have called the current economic situation in Europe a test of the common labour market and free labour mobility in the EU. The internal market offers a tool to alleviate the unemployment crisis in Europe, by allowing people to move to where the jobs are. As parliamentarians we need to think long and hard about how we meet and include people in our communities. If we want people to take the plunge and make use of the internal market, we must ensure that they are well received.
We cannot accept sullen anger to simmer in parts of our population. It is our duty to actively and visibly create a sense of belonging for all individuals in our countries.
I thank you for your attention.