Promoting democracy, but how? What can and must be done against right-wing violence

The Bavarian police accompanies a registered demonstration against the corona protection measures in February.

The Bavarian police accompanies a registered demonstration against the corona protection measures in February.Image: CHROMORANGE / Michael Bihlmayer

analysis

The annual balance of the Federal Criminal Police Office on politically motivated crime shows: Violence by Corona deniers has increased. Especially at demonstrations. A law to promote democracy, the concrete implementation of the 10-point plan against right-wing extremism and the closing of the “perception gap” in politics when classifying violent crimes are required.

05/14/2022, 15:0705/14/2022, 16:05

Laura Czypull

Halle, Hanau, Munich, Essen and many other cities: they all stand for right-wing extremist terrorist attacks that have been carried out or prevented.

Politically motivated crime is at its highest level since the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) began collecting data in 2001. A large part of this is due to the increasing willingness to use violence on the part of opponents of the Corona policy. This is the conclusion of the annual report of the Federal Ministry of the Interior this week.

The fact that something urgently needs to be done against the increasing violence – especially from the right – is nothing new. Robert Kusche, board member of the Association of Right-wing Violence Counseling Centers, Pia Lamberty, social psychologist and author, and Etris Hashemi, survivor and relative of the racist attack in Hanau, made clear exactly what this week in a press conference:

  1. The perspective of those affected must be taken into account to a greater extent when classifying acts of violence.
  2. The 10-point plan against right-wing extremism announced in March needs to be fleshed out.
  3. And there is an urgent need for a democracy promotion law.

Greater cooperation with victims’ associations

As Robert Kusche pointed out on Tuesday: “There are great expectations of the new federal government on these points.” By that he means fighting right-wing violence.

As a victims’ association and as civil society, one is “after that these things are also implemented”. But it is also true that right-wing violence has gotten worse in recent years. “Especially when it comes to right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism, these are very tough slabs that we have to drill through.”he said.

At the same time, however, there is a lack of cooperation with the authorities in certain areas: “Cooperation could be better”, Kusches recorded dryly. That’s why he’s also pinning his hopes on Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, he added.

Riots at a demonstration against the Corona measures in Magdeburg in January.

Riots at a demonstration against the Corona measures in Magdeburg in January.Image: www.imago-images.de / B&S/Bernd March

Kusche primarily points to the “perception gap” of acts of violence in the politics as a serious problem. The Association of Counseling Centers for Victims of Right-Wing, Racist and Anti-Semitic Violence only documents the number of violent acts for some of the federal states in Germany. While the Federal Ministry of the Interior collects nationwide figures.

Nevertheless, the data from the counseling center is significantly higher every year than that listed in the BKA’s annual report. Above all, there should be better cooperation here.

A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior said at Watson’s request:

“The Federal Ministry of the Interior is in close contact with those affected by extremist or terrorist crimes, most recently also several times personally through the Federal Minister of the Interior, with the victims and relatives of the Hanau attack.”

In addition, see the Catalog of measures of the cabinet committee to combat right-wing extremism and racism among other things, the strengthening of cooperation between civil society and security authorities.

Point 16 of the 89 measures taken by the previous government stipulates the “creation of a trust-building exchange format”. For example, there should be an annual conference on current issues of cooperation. And a research project that focuses on cooperation between the police and civil society in relation to prevention and criminal prosecution.

Fighting right-wing extremism becomes a matter for the bosses

Etris Hashemi confirms: “We have been in contact with Nancy Faeser for a long time.” Faeser, in particular, had campaigned for a committee of inquiry in the Hessian state parliament into the attack in Hanau.

In the fight against right-wing violence, however, Hashemi hopes for concrete concepts. “The federal government’s 10-point plan against right-wing extremism is an important, necessary and long overdue step.”, he says to watson. However, the implementation of the plan is too vague. There is no concept of how these points should be enforced in the current legislative period.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser at the Bundestag debate on the Democracy Promotion Act on Friday.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser at the Bundestag debate on the Democracy Promotion Act on Friday.Image: www.imago-images.de / imago images

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s so-called 10-point plan builds on the previous federal government’s package of 89 measures against right-wing extremism. In doing so, she makes the fight against the law a matter for the bosses.

Their action plan includes, among other things: disarming the right-wing extremist scene, fighting online hatred and strengthening the prevention of right-wing extremism.

This week, Faeser gives reason to hope that the fight against the right will finally be taken in hand. Because after the press conference on Tuesday on the BKA’s annual report on politically motivated violence, the report on the situation of right-wing extremism in security authorities followed on Friday.

CDU application under criticism

A term that came up again and again on Tuesday is the Democracy Promotion Act. In February, the Ministry of Family Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior presented a joint discussion paper. More than 200 experts and organizations were then invited to contribute their ideas on the design of the law.

On Friday, the motion by the CDU/CSU parliamentary group “For a well-fortified democracy – against any kind of extremism” was discussed in the Bundestag for the first time.

“If you had stopped writing after the second paragraph in your motion, we would have actually agreed to it. But after that it just gets too scary.”

Uli Grötsch, member of the Bundestag (SPD)

The Union calls on the federal government not only to focus on combating right-wing extremism. But also to submit concrete applications on Islamist terrorism, political Islamism and left-wing extremism.

The debate in the Bundestag was surprisingly heated. At least surprisingly for the Union: It was expected that “far right and far left” would have a problem with the application. But the Union assumed “that the traffic light will easily gather behind this application,” said Alexander Hoffmann (CDU/CSU).

Instead, the opposite was the case: “If you had stopped writing after the second paragraph in your application, we would have actually agreed to it. But after that it just gets too scary.”said Uli Grötsch (SPD).

Alexander Hoffmann (CDU/CSU) during the Union's application consultation for the Democracy Promotion Act on Friday.

Alexander Hoffmann (CDU/CSU) during the Union’s application consultation for the Democracy Promotion Act on Friday.Image: www.imago-images.de / imago images

And also the green and FDP were anything but enthusiastic about the Union application. Above all, they called for the “old reflexes in this debate”. It is a matter of course to have a look at all kinds of extremism. Right-wing extremism is currently the greatest threat to democracy.

So far, there has been a lack of funding for the prevention of extremism and the promotion of democracy. The federal government can currently only fund temporary model projects. This problem could be solved by the Democracy Promotion Act. However, the law does not stipulate the amount of which project should be funded. So far, these are only cornerstones.

This initiative is nothing new: with the catalog of 89 measures to combat right-wing extremism, the first push for the Democracy Promotion Act started in 2020 – also with the participation of the Union. However, the then “Defensive Democracy Law” failed, of all things, because of the Union.

What the first debate on the Union’s motion shows is: How divided the parties are in the concrete design of the Democracy Promotion Act and how urgently Faeser needs to be in charge here.

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