EXTREMISMHow Does Germany Ban Foreign Far-Right Extremists?

By Ben Knight

Published 2 February 2024

Germany is considering banning Austria’s far-right extremist Martin Sellner from entering the country. Such a move is not unprecedented, but the legal hurdles in the EU are high.

Austrian far-right extremist Martin Sellner spent the day on Monday taunting leading German politicians as he defied a mooted plan to ban him from German soil. Live-streaming his two-hour journey in a rented car to the German border, the leader of Austria’s Identitarian group posted regular videos to social media after vowing to drink a coffee in the Bavarian town of Passau, just across the border.

The stunt, cheered on by a handful of supporters on the roadside, culminated in a brief encounter with the German police, who let him pass into Bavaria. He promptly filmed another video where he sarcastically thanked German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The 35-year-old Sellner recently gained public attention when it emerged that he was a key speaker in a gathering of far-right extremists in Potsdam last November, also attended by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). At the meeting, he presented a “masterplan” to forcibly “remigrate” foreigners from Germany, including German citizens with an immigrant background.

A new flurry of interest in Sellner was sparked last week when the socialist Left Party’s anti-fascism spokesperson Martina Renner asked the government whether it was considering banning Sellner from entering Germany. Interior Ministry officials confirmed to the Bundestag member that a ban was being considered. The Potsdam city government has since said that its foreigners’ registration authorities were also assessing whether the gathering in the city constituted a “danger to safety and public order.”

Legal Means Against Fascism
The potential ban was welcomed by politicians from all major parties. “In our well-defended democracy, we should fundamentally not tolerate any agitation against our constitutional order — especially not from foreign extremists like Martin Sellner,” Philipp Amthor of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) told the DPA news agency.

The Left Party’s Martina Renner, who favors a ban, was undeterred by Sellner’s defiance this week. “The fact that he was nevertheless able to enter the country yesterday does not speak against such an examination, as this could result in a longer-term entry ban if the outcome is positive,” she told DW by email. “We must not leave any legal remedies unchecked and unused that make it more difficult for neo-Nazis and fascists to engage in political activity.”

The EU’s Freedom of Movement Act allows member states to deny people entry on the grounds of “public order or security.” But, the law adds, “There must be a real and sufficiently serious threat to the public order, affecting