Brussels Swastika-ban debate
|The European Union held a debate in the spring of 2005 on a proposal to ban Nazi symbols across its 25 member states.
The ban was proposed shortly after an heir to the British throne, Prince Harry, was photographed wearing a WWII German uniform with a Swastika armband. He subsequently apologised for causing offence by his choice of outfit for a fancy dress party.
The calls for a ban on Nazi symbols had prompted some Euro MPs from former communist countries to call for a similar ban on the symbols of Soviet rule, such as the Hammer and Sickle. This had already been rejected before the decision on Nazi symbols was made.
Britain, Denmark, Hungary and Italy voiced concerns at a meeting of justice ministers in Brussels that a ban of symbols like the Swastika could curb freedom of expression.
Others drew attention to the fact that banning the Swastika would be tricky, as it is a time-honoured good luck symbol for Hindus. In their tradition, it is one of their most sacred symbols of peace. This threat to ban a respected symbol also caused dismay amongst the Chinese Falun Gong.
They had received a notice that displaying their Swastika symbol on the German Falun Dafa Association’s website was illegal. However, this ruling was overturned a year later.
The only country in Europe which has banned the use of Nazi insignia is Germany. France, for example, bars the sale of Nazi-related memorabilia.
This clearly is a vexed problem that cannot easily be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. We shall look at a number of European countries where Swastika-like symbolism of different origins are found side by side.