Germany’s Political Right, Europe and Migration

Dr. Angelos Kaskanis
Dr. Angelos Kaskanis

Project Manager - Tactics Institute

Britain is not the only country in which the question of European Intergration and migration have been coupled and remain divisive for the political right. Germany has seen this too. However, there are significant differences. There is a different electoral system, in which different elements of the right retain a distinct political identity. This makes easier the cooperation across broad left-right political lines that is simply impossible in the UK. In Germany, the political system talks about policies such as citizenship, security, migration, and Europe as “a system.” In the UK, “power conglomerates” contain this discussion.

 

The German Presidency of the European Union ended on December 31st. From July, Berlin took the lead in managing the coordination of the European Council amidst Brexit negotiations, the second wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the worst economic crisis in Europe since 2008. Reflecting on the centrality of the project of European Integration for Germany – and migration – we talked to Mr. Dirk Auer, a journalist, who has been covering Southeastern Europe (and migration) for over a decade.

 

Angelos Kaskanis (AK). There was a time in which Europe’s unification and federative trajectory was in Germany’s national interest. Is Germany still the foremost advocate of European federalism?

 

Dirk Auer (DA). I do not know if foremost, but Germany is certainly still a strong supporter of Europe’s unification, simply because the political class is very aware that Germany benefits from the Single Market more than any other country. In that respect there is no contradiction between Germany’s national interest and advocating for European unification. There is actually also no real political dissent about this.

 

AK. Do you feel that Germany’s 2020-2025 political agenda is a five-year plan towards a “Europe of the People” or a “Europe of the Nations?”

 

DA. I do not see that there is a five-year plan for any of these concepts. Conservatives may be more in favour of a "Europe often the Nations", while Social Democrats and Greens are in favour of a "Europe often the People". But anyway, European politics is always a reaction to current crises, in which holy cows are often thrown overboard and concepts are shifting – as we’ve seen again in the pandemic crisis.

 

AK. Do you favour the idea of cooperation with AfD in German states, following the Austrian, Danish, Italian, Estonian, Slovak, and Polish precedents of cooperation with the far right? When there are such unions, is the extreme “moderated” or “mainstreamed?”

 

DA. I strongly reject political cooperation and coalitions with the far right. From the above examples, one can see how right-wing participation shifts the entire political discourse to the right. In Austria, for example, this can be seen particularly well. In Germany the AfD has so far split twice, and each time the more radical wing has prevailed. So, no one should hope to “domesticate” this party.

 

AK. You are not convinced that the far-right can be "tamed" by its inclusion in broader coalitions. Do you see a dynamic of containing more extreme elements in the CDU-CSU coalition?

 

The {Bavarian wing of the Christian Democrats} CSU always takes a more resolute line on migration, and it was AfD’s better and better election results which led to growing tensions between Merkel’s and Seehofer’s coalition.[1] This – together with a change in the media discourse as a result of the New Year's Eve events in Cologne (2015), capacity problems, the danger of being isolated in Europe – led to a change in government's policy {from an open-door policy to disrupting the migration flow}.

 

AK. Is the integration of Muslims and Migrants a question of “how many” or a question of what it means to be German?

 

DA. I don't think that there is an upper limit for integrating “newcomers”. At least not if it is possible to commit everyone to common laws and values (the constitution). Religion, culture etc. would then simply be a private matter and existing differences would not be a political problem. In this respect, yes, integration is also about the question of what it means to be German: whether "German" in this liberal sense is understood in a purely civic sense – or whether we still carry remnants of the Nazi blood and soil ideology with us.

 


[1] The Alternative for Germany (AfD) was founded in 2013 by Eurosceptic Christian Democrats, opposed to the project of monetary and economic integration. The party was seating in the European Parliament, shoulder to shoulder with the British Conservatives. The party continued to shift to the right, until a first change of Guard in leadership in 2017, becoming more closely associated with far-right extremist groups such as PEGIDA.

 

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