“We must not panic now”

SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner talks in Telepolis interview about Angela Merkel’s crisis policy, hopeless asylum procedures and looming distribution battles in Germany

Mr. Stegner, which three adjectives would you use to describe the refugee debate of the past few days??

Ralf Stegner: Shrill, populist, fear-mongering. What exactly causes fear?

Ralf Stegner: Any colleague who participates in the debate with regulars’ phrases, as the CSU does, is acting negligently. In tackling this difficult challenge, we must be careful neither to deny problems nor to engage in fear campaigns and prejudice. Rose-colored glasses won’t get us anywhere, but neither will alarmism. In short: Don’t tinder, but clarify and tackle the problem. So far, the federal government officially ames 800.000 to one million refugees for this year from. Recently, the authorities had already corrected the number upwards internally…

Ralf Stegner: I do not want to participate in speculations. There is no doubt that Germany can cope with a high number of refugees. We must not panic now. But?

Ralf Stegner: When we consider how quickly thousands of people crossed the border, it must be clear to everyone that this cannot go on forever. Police and administration as well as the many volunteers have reached their limits in some places. Enormous numbers of people help, but their powers are also limited. What follows from this?

Ralf Stegner: It is not enough just to describe all this. We now need a triad of measures to combat the causes of flight, European solutions and a sensible approach to the refugees who are already in the country and who are still coming to us. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf), the German authorities do not know the identity of more than a quarter of a million refugees in the country. In view of these figures, do you understand Horst Seehofer’s demand that the Chancellor declare that Germany’s absorption capacity has been exhausted??

Ralf Stegner: I advise prudence. There is just as little need for all-around slogans and doom and gloom as there is for appeasement. The individual right to seek asylum is in the Basic Law – and will remain so. It is neither adapted nor circumvented or hollowed out. Ralf Stegner is deputy federal chairman of the SPD, chairman of the SPD state parliamentary group and state chairman of the Schleswig-Holstein SPD. Yesterday he also gave a Twitter interview under #fragRalf. Image: SPD state association Schleswig-Holstein/Olaf Bathke

"The SPD stands by the basic right to asylum, nothing will be changed"

Does it bother you that similar voices can also be heard from your party?? Your party colleague Thomas Oppermann, for example, demands more from the Chancellor "Fuhrungskraft". She should acknowledge that Germany’s capabilities are "almost exhausted" are.

Ralf Stegner: The SPD stands by the basic right to asylum, nothing will be changed in this respect. It is nonsense to say that the SPD is moving closer to the CSU. We are not taking our cue from the right-wing populist Orban in Hungary. Mr. Seehofer, on the other hand, seems determined to follow his example. Where do you currently see the most urgent need for action?

Ralf Stegner: Asylum procedures take far too long. And one person is responsible for this: Thomas de Maizière. Take a look at our neighboring countries: the Netherlands, for example, process asylum applications within a few weeks – and we? In our country, such procedures take about five months on average, that can’t be right. I would remind you that we Social Democrats called for more staff at the BAMF a year ago. Unfortunately, little has happened so far. More than 275.000 unprocessed asylum applications have piled up in the Federal Office for Migration in the meantime. They will be examined by 550 decision-makers, whose number is to be doubled. Is that enough?

Ralf Stegner: I cannot judge that. One thing is clear: Mr. de Maizière must take more care – and not constantly make new proposals that we already know are either not in conformity with the treaty or not practicable. Were you surprised that Angela Merkel is now entrusting the overall coordination of the matter to Peter Altmaier, head of the Chancellor’s Office??

Ralf Stegner: At least this is not a commendation for the Minister of the Interior. I think it is right. If the fight against the causes of flight and the effort to develop a common humanitarian refugee policy in Europe were finally accompanied by a functioning nationwide coordination in Germany, that would be the right approach. In this historic situation, take up the challenge, combine all forces, provide practical help to countries and municipalities, significantly accelerate test procedures in a way that complies with the treaty, and tackle the problems in a concrete way. That is what is at stake now. If we speed up the procedures, we are also able to solve a large number of problems. What problems do you mean? On the one hand, the applicants found out immediately whether they were allowed to stay in Germany – they were thus able to gain a foothold in our country more quickly. On the other hand, the distribution of the people to the federal states was less complicated, the municipalities were relieved. Overall, we were able to provide better care for the refugees, some difficulties in housing were eliminated, and this also reduces conflicts that arise there. We were – finally – able to devote adequate attention to the important ie of integration. Because that is still to come for our society.


Advance to the third world

The U.S. Army is again increasing its troop presence in Africa and Latin America

In the U.S., not only the debate about an exit strategy, which was forced during the U.S. presidential election campaign, indicates a reorientation of Washington’s exit policy. Almost simultaneously, the increase in U.S. military presence in Africa and Latin America became public in recent weeks. Massive opposition to the new militarization has emerged from both regions.

Africa moves back into the sights of U.S. military strategists with new high command. Until now, the continent has been under the control of U.S. regional commands for Europe, the Pacific, and Central Command. With the Africa Command (AFRICOM) on 1. October a new unit will start its work. Under the command of General William Ward, the military presence is to be combined with civilian structural measures. But not only the "black continent" is again attracting the attention of US military strategists. In mid-May, the Pentagon had announced the mobilization of the Fourth Fleet. The naval vessel, inactive since 1950, has been reactivated to cruise in international waters off Sud America in the future.


Black-green in blue-yellow?

In Sweden, the Reinfeldt Alliance is trying to incorporate the green Miljoparti into its government

In the Swedish parliamentary elections, neither of the two confederations achieved an absolute majority of seats. Although the conservative Moderata Samlingsparti, led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, improved its share of the vote from 26.2 to 30 percent and now has 107 of a total of 349 deputies, the smaller government partners lost seats: The 7.1 percent-strong People’s Party now has only 24 seats, the farmer-oriented Center Party (6.6 percent) 22 and the Christian Democrats (5.6 percent) 19. The 172-member alliance is three votes short of an absolute majority.

Although the Social Democratic Party (SAP) was narrowly the strongest party with 30.9 percent and 107 seats, it not only lost 4.4 percentage points and 17 members of parliament, but also recorded its worst result since 1914. The Left, allied to the Social Democrats, also bounced back, winning 5.6 percent of the vote and 19 seats. Only the green Miljoparti increased by 2 percentage points to 7.2 percent and 25 mandates and is now the third strongest grouping in the Riksdag. The anti-immigration groups are not part of any alliance Sweden Democrats, which won 5.7 percent of the vote and 20 seats in Parliament for the first time.


Transitional solution for puigdemont and catalonia?

transitional solution for puigdemont and catalonia?

Image: Omnium

Independence parties want to elect Jordi Sànchez as interim president, German government wants to stay out of Puigdemont case

The independence parties in Catalonia are now seeking to install Jordi Sànchez as president while Germany decides whether to extradite former president Carles Puigdemont to Spain. Puigdemont’s "Together for Catalonia" (JxCat) meets demands of the Republican Left (ERC), which wants a government quickly.


Storm clouds in the east

Hungary may yet turn out to be Europe’s biggest casualty of the present financial mess

There is an old saying that when America sneezes the world catches a cold. Along these lines, the financial mess in the US has been treated by the corporate media around the world as if it were a virus of some sort. Hence, as the US began to feel the squeeze of the credit crunch, Europeans began talking in terms of being well prepared so that they wouldn’t be "affected". Another often used phrase was that the credit crunch "hasn’t reached" a certain country yet.

In due course, it has transpired that leading institutions in many European countries have been "affected" by what is happening in the US and that the subprime mortgage crisis has indeed "reached" Europe. Yet the way in which this ie is being presented is more than a little disingenuous; it attempts to hide the fundamental problem afflicting all capitalist societies of the western world. In other words, the underlying culture of greed and denial which is at the core of a rotten system is one that is not something uniquely American. Admittedly, the process may have started in the US; yet most knew they were speculating in a bubble economy. However, considering that the riches to be made while the bubble was growing were extraordinary, most felt it made sense to take huge risks. The payoffs from benefiting from the bubble were enormous, so there was no reward for staying out.


Labour government with the acquiescence of the scottish national party?

… or German-style rough coalition?

Although (or perhaps because) it lost the independence referendum in the fall, the Scottish National Party will be able to win the British House of Commons election on 7. May current polls hope to wipe out a rough majority of the 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons and increase the number of their MPs from 6 to as many as 56 (out of UK-wide 650). This was mainly to the detriment of the Labour Party, in which 41 members of the House of Commons are currently from Scotland.

Because the Tories must expect to lose a larger part of their 303 seats, it could again be the case that neither of the two major parties has a majority of seats – and that the seats of the Liberal Democrats, who have probably been halved or plucked even more, will not be enough to reach the required 326 seats with their support.