Why the Union and the SPD cannot agree on the fight against racism

The matter should be settled soon. The plan was for the right-wing extremism cabinet committee chaired by Chancellor (CDU) to come together for its third and final meeting next Wednesday. Then the federal government wanted to determine what it wanted to do in the fight against right-wing terror and racism. But the Chancellery pulled the “rip cord”, says the SPD domestic politician Helge Lindh. The meeting was adjourned. The reason: Too many points of contention between the Union and the SPD.

There is agreement in the Groko that more must be done against right-wing extremism and racism. After the attacks in Hanau and Halle, the federal government set up the cabinet committee.

Only: The Union and the SPD are arguing about which specific instruments should be decided. “With a view to individual considerations, one can then by all means have different opinions,” says Union parliamentary group vice-chairman Thorsten Frei. That is nicely phrased. Because the fronts within the Groko seem hardened; both sides accuse each other of being blocked.

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SPD Deputy Chief Serpil Midyatlı is therefore demanding a word of power from Merkel. “It is now above all up to the Chancellor that a clear signal is set here,” she says. “The expectations of civil society and migrant self-organizations of the federal government are high.”

It has to be done quickly

Time is of the essence: on November 26th the budget committee’s adjustment meeting will take place in the Bundestag. Until then, the Union and the SPD have to agree how much money they want to put into the fight against the right in 2021.

Serpil Midyatlı is Deputy Federal Chairwoman of the SPD and head of the Schlewsig-Holstein regional association.Photo: AFP / Odd Andersen

The list of open questions is long – it ranges from a constitutional amendment to the powers of the security authorities to the “Democracy Promotion Act “. According to the SPD’s wish, this should help associations and initiatives that campaign for democracy. “They should be promoted on a permanent basis and not only project-oriented as before,” says Lindh.

A new law is not needed, says Mathias Middelberg, domestic policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group. The “federal programs in the area of ​​extremism prevention” had already been expanded in the past. “The Federal Agency for Civic Education, which we have also strengthened in terms of personnel and finances in recent years, is doing a good job in this area.”

Does the federal government need a racism officer?

Even with the question of Deletion of the word “race” from the Basic Law – According to Lindh, an SPD “core demand” – the Groko is divided. “Well meant could also mean the opposite of good,” says Frei. He fears that the legal ban on discrimination would be undermined if the term were removed from the constitution.

Thorsten Frei (CDU) has been a member of the German Bundestag since 2013 and is deputy chairman of the Union parliamentary group.Photo: dpa / Jörg Carstensen

The SPD proposal, one, is also rejected by the Union To use racism officers. “The position must be well positioned financially and personally so that it can have an impact,” demands Lindh. “There has to be enough manpower behind it so that the agent can take action against all forms of racism as effectively as possible.”

Little thinks free of the idea. The fight against racism must be a “top priority” for the interior ministers. “It should not be delegated to an ‘agent’.”

Union wants to expand surveillance

Frei places particular value on “strong security authorities, especially a strong Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution”. SPD leader Saskia Esken recently blocked the expansion of the surveillance of telecommunications by the Federal Intelligence Service and the Military Counter-Intelligence Service. The SPD chairman therefore accuses Frei of a blockade attitude. “In addition to the prevention aspect, we must also equip our security authorities with the necessary investigative powers so that they can take effective action against right-wing extremists,” says Middelberg.

As for an expansion of the powers for the protection of the constitution, the SPD is open, says Lindh. However, there should not be any “delimitation of the security authorities’ ability to intervene”.

A point of contention is likely to be outsourced at the next meeting of the cabinet committee: the question of a racism study by the police, as the SPD wants and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) strictly rejects. For months, the Social Democrats have been accusing Seehofer of preventing the police from fighting structural racism. Now the SPD interior ministers want to work independently and begin to have “racism in the security authorities scientifically investigated”, as Lindh says. SPD Deputy Chief Midyatlı would like a more scientific focus on the topic anyway: “That would be good for the debate overall.”

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