Several German lawmakers have called for a Europe-wide ban on Nazi insignia following widespread outrage after Britain's Prince Harry wore a swastika as part of a costume at a high-society gathering.
Prince Harry, who went to a costume party dressed in an Afrika Korps uniform with a swastika armband, "really lacked taste," said Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic parliamentary group.
"All of Europe has suffered in the past because of the crimes of the Nazis, therefore it would be logical for Nazi symbols to be banned all over Europe," added Silvana Koch-Merin, who heads Germany's liberal Free Democrats in the European Parliament. She also called for the question of a ban to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of justice ministers.
The Social Democrats deputy parliamentary leader, Michael Müller, agreed that study was needed to find out how a German-style anti-Nazi law could be transposed to the rest of Europe. Dieter Wiefelspütz, a Social Democratic party specialist on justice questions, said Nazi symbols were reminders of a "humiliating" and "deathly" concept of humanity.
EU ban unlikely
But expanding the ban on Nazi symbols across the EU is unlikely to happen, as many countries consider their display -- no matter how repugnant -- protected by democratic principles of free speech.
Backers of a ban want the issue rushed onto the agenda of a European Union ministers' meeting next week. But the emotive issue generated immediate dispute, with some warning that it threatens freedom of expression.
"I understand how the burden of history weighs upon my German colleagues' view," said Chris Davies, leader of the British Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament.
"However, banning symbols cannot ban evil and risks playing into the hands of those who would seek to subvert the very liberties we most champion," he added.
A spokesman for EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said he "shares the general feeling of opprobrium at the use of the swastika and other Nazi symbols".
"It may be worth looking into the possibility of a Europe-wide ban, to explore that possibility at least," he added.
A group of neo-Nazis celebrate during a rally in the eastern German city of Leipzig, Friday, May 1, 1998.
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