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"Immigrant youth crime": from campaign theme to blowback for the German Right

by DoDo Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 10:08:44 AM EST

On the night before New Year's Eve, in the Munich subway, two teenagers beat up a pensioner so badly that he had to be hospitalized. In the following days, the media's full attention didn't miss three more cases of youth violence in subways.

Given the fact that the offenders in the first case were foreign citizens, the two most odious politicians on the German right could take a chapter from Sarkozy's book: Roland Koch and Günther Beckstein started off a bidding war of calls for stricter laws on youth crime and the deportation of foreign youth criminals.

Law and order has traditionally been a debate the right is comfortable with. The dynamic is simple: some emotionally charged crime is seized on by the right to demand higher penalties and propose some symbolic measures they know they can never fully implement, like deportations, or boot camps. The left does not respond, calls for looking at 'root causes' or adopts some of the ridiculous proposals of the right. Either way, it loses.

Not so this time. The left managed to land some quite heavy blows -- what's more, the centre-left SPD took the prime! And the issue has now escalated into a full-scale war of words complete with personal insults and calls for resignation, which has put even Chancellor Angela Merkel in a difficult position.

We (DoDo and nanne) didn't expect how far this develops, and thought it deserves a thorough coverage, with juicy bilingual column quotes (hence the length). So we wrote a diary jointly.



Who are they?...

Regular readers of Fran's Salon might be well familiar with the law-and-order-ist scarecrow and taboo-breaking exercises of Germany's federal interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble, of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) party. But he is only an enterprising amateur relative to these two.

Roland Koch. Image credit: partykamera / flickr.com

Roland Koch is currently the PM of Hessen state from the CDU. He is a reckless post-yuppie, anything for power. He plays far-right tunes like no other on the center-right; he came to power in the first place thanks to starting a signature collection for a referendum against double citizenship. He survived several cases of being caught lying, be it knowledge of black accounts for his local party, or outrage at a government decision that turned out to have been staged.

Koch is a founding member of the Anden-Pakt, a power alliance within the CDU for mutual support and for the avoidance of mutual criticism in public, that was formed by (then) young CDU-ers on a plane to visit Pinochet's Chile. Many current members of the Anden-Pakt (see earlier mentions in this comment and 2005 nightmare scenario with Koch by DoDo) are PMs or faction heads in Germany's federal states. Angela Merkel could defeat them in her thrust for party leadership and chancellorship, but she is not powerful enough to publicly oppose them on policy.

Günther Beckstein. Image credit: gea.de

Günther Beckstein is currently the PM of Bavaria, from the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Socialist Union (CSU). Until a few months ago, he was Bavaria's long-time interior minister. He made a name as the most hard-core among his colleagues. He had a strong role in setting an important precedent, the case code-named "Mehmet": that concerned a 14-year repeated offender, who was the Munich-born but non-naturalised son of Turkish immigrant parents, who was deported to Turkey.


Bidding war between Koch and Beckstein

After a 20-year-old Turkish and a 17-year-old Greek(!) youth beat up a pensioner in the Munich subway (for asking them to stop smoking), Koch immediately jumped on the theme, to paint it as a problem with foreigners rather than youth. In an interview with mass daily Bild (the German equivalent of The Sun), he declared:

Wir haben zu viele kriminelle junge Ausländer. Niemand darf sich hinter seinem „Migrations-Status“ verschanzen. Null Toleranz gegen Gewalt muss ganz früh beginnen und Bestandteil unserer Integrationspolitik sein. We have too many criminal young foreigners. No one should be allowed to hide behind their "migration status". Zero tolerance against violence must begin very early and must be an element of our integration politics.

Now Koch is campaigning, he is facing elections later this month. So, being the deft provocateur, he added an attack on the (SPD) federal justice minister, and responded to initial outrage in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (main conservative broadsheet) with:

Ich führe diese Debatte schon seit vielen Jahren und nicht erst im Wahlkampf und lasse mir es auch nicht zum Tabu erklären, nur weil Wahlkampf ist. I lead this debate for many years now and not just in the election campaign, and I won't let it be declared taboo, just because it's campaign time.

Nevermind that it was anything but taboo before for the Right, and that 'years of previous debate' curiously concentrated into election campaigns in previous years...

Riding the wave of his own scandal, Koch presented his proposals for stricter laws on 2 January: a 'warning shot arrest', preventive detention applied for adolescents, no transition time for 18-21 year olds, longer prison terms, driving ban, and easier deportation of foreign-citizen violent youth criminals. He said a week later that this should apply to EU citizens, too.

So what was happening in Bavaria in the meantime? First, in tow of a milder version of the usual list of right-wing get-tough demands, something surprisingly sensible came from Bavarian justice minister Beate Merk, according to magazine Focus:

Nach dem U-Bahn-Überfall „kristallisiert“ sich für Bayerns Justizministerin Beate Merk heraus, dass bestimmte jugendliche Gewalttäter, insbesondere jene „mit Migrationshintergrund“, mit den „Mitteln des Jugendstrafrechts“ nicht in den Griff zu bekommen sind. Ihre Forderungen: weniger Hürden für eine nachträgliche Sicherungsverwahrung auch für diese Tätergruppe, mehr Arreste, höherer Strafrahmen im Jugendstrafrecht und regelmäßige Anwendung des allgemeinen Strafrechts auch bei Tätern im Alter zwischen 18 und 20 Jahren. Eine Ausweisung der Verhafteten befürwortet dieMinisterin nicht. „So leicht sollen die Täter nicht davonkommen.“ Erst müssten diese ihre zu erwartende mehrjährige Haftstrafe absitzen. After the subway attack, for Bavaria's justice minister Beate Merk, it "crystallises" out that some violent youth offenders, especially those "with a migration background", can't be dealt with when using "the means of youth criminal law". Her demands: reduced hurdles for after-the-fact preventive detention also for this subset of offenders, more arrests, higher penalty framework in youth criminal law and regular application of general criminal law also for offenders of ages 18 to 20. The minister doesn't endorse a deportation of the arrested [in the subway case]. "They shouldn't get away with it that easily." They must first sit down their to be expected multi-year sentences.

Beckstein himself, however, switched to a tougher line: he has been none too happy about Roland Koch's public posturing with his issue, as Spiegel documents:

Aber der CDU hinterherhinken, das will Bayerns Ministerpräsident nun auch nicht. "Die Innere Sicherheit ist unser Spezialthema", sagt Beckstein. Das wisse "jeder in Deutschland". Mit ihren Forderungen nach Verschärfung des Jugendstrafrechts und entschiedenerer Abschiebepraxis habe die große Unionsschwester nun wirklich "nichts ganz Neues" aufgeboten, denn die CSU diskutiere all das "schon lange". [...]

Ausgerechnet in der Heimat christsozialer Kraftmeierei muss sich ausgerechnet der einstige "Mister Sicherheit" Beckstein gegen den Vorwurf politischer Harmlosigkeit wehren.

But dragging behind the CDU is something Bavaria's Minister-President does not want to do. "Inner security is our specialty", Beckstein says. "Everyone in Germany" would know that. With its demands for tougher youth crime laws and a more decisive deportation practice, the big partner in the [CDU/CSU] Union would really have offered "nothing really new", as the CSU has "long" discussed these things.

In the Heimat [homeland] of Christian-Social muscle-man politics, of all places, the once 'Mister Security', Beckstein, of all people, has to defend himself from the charge of political harmlessness.

Not much impressed with Beckstein's charges, Koch has decided to press on and demand the application of criminal law for under-14 year-olds!

"[W]ir müssen zur Kenntnis nehmen, dass es eine sehr aggressive Kriminalität einer sehr kleinen Gruppe von Menschen unter 14 Jahren gibt. Oft werden diese Jugendlichen auch noch von Erwachsenen benutzt, die genau auf die Strafunmündigkeit der Täter setzen."

"[Es gibt] zwei Antworten. Erstens: striktere Entziehung des Sorgerechts durch die Jugendbehörden. Zweitens: In Ausnahmefällen könnten Elemente des Jugendstrafrechts für diese Zielgruppe eingesetzt werden."

"We have to recognise that a very aggressive criminality has taken hold among a very small group of humans under 14 years of age. Often, these youths are, furthermore, used by adults, who deliberately exploit the nonage status of these delinquents."

"There are two answers. First: Being more strict about letting youth officials divest legal custody. Second: in exceptional cases, elements of the youth crime code could be used for this target group."

Koch, of course, was again talking about foreigners, though this time he shied away from explicitly stating so. Anyway, this was one wacky Koch proposal too far, and even Beckstein, in the course of formulating more repressive laws, could not follow:

" Jetzt haben Beckstein und sein Kabinett ein umfassendes Paket zur Bekämpfung der Jugendgewalt geschnürt, und der Ministerpräsident betonte abermals, Bayern sei deutscher "Marktführer" bei der Inneren Sicherheit. Zugleich rief er zur Mäßigung auf, das Thema müsse in "vernünftiger Weise" diskutiert werden. Auch Kochs Vorschlag, das Jugendstrafrecht bei Kindern anzuwenden, folgt er nicht. Now Beckstein and his Cabinet have tied together a comprehensive package to combat youth crime, and the prime minister laid focus once again on Bavaria being the German "market leader" in inner security. At the same time he called for moderation and said the theme had to be discussed in a "reasonable way". He does not follow Koch's proposal to use youth crime laws for children, either.

Koch went too far, embarrassed even his fellow reactionary CDU Members, and had to backtrack.

Der hessische Ministerpräsident Roland Koch hat seine Forderungen, das Jugendstrafrecht in Einzelfällen auch auf Täter unter 14 Jahren anzuwenden, relativiert. «Aus meiner Sicht kann man da sehr pragmatisch diskutieren, und da gibt es keine verbindliche Festlegung von mir», sagte Koch am Montag in Berlin. The Hessian Prime Minister Roland Koch has relativised his demands to use youth crime laws for delinquents younger than 14 years in some cases. "From my perspective, we can have a very pragmatic discussion, and there are no binding commitments from my side", Koch stated in Berlin on Monday.


The hits on Koch's credibility

Koch initially earned the usual outrage from all quarters on the left with general complaints. As an example, foreign minister and deputy chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) accused him of "brutalstmögliche Populismus" ('populism as brutal as it can be'), a reference to Koch's famous false promise to kick off an "investigation as brutal as it can be" in his party's corruption case. The Central Council of Jews in Germany, which is treated as moral institution in Germany, also attacked Koch for campaigning with bare differences to the semi-neo-Nazi party NPD.

The latter led to Koch receiving applause and protests of stealing arguments from another quarter... Udo Voigt, the leader of NPD, opined:

Wenn etablierte Politiker NPD-Argumente übernehmen, dann wird das auch dazu führen, daß immer mehr Bürger Vertrauen in die Politik der NPD gewinnen und folglich auch NPD wählen. Sollte Herr Koch auch nach den Wahlen zu seinen Äußerungen stehen, dann wird die hessische CDU ein möglicher Koalitionspartner für die NPD. Herr Koch, bleiben Sie hart und fair. Setzen Sie Ihre Forderungen auch endlich um. Mit der Unterstützung der NPD können Sie in diesem Fall rechnen! If established politicians take over the NPD's arguments, that will lead to ever more citizens gaining trust in the politics of the NPD, and consequently will vote for the NPD. In case Mr. Koch stands by his words after the elections, too, then the Hessen CDU will become a potential coalition partner for the NPD. Mr. Koch, remain hard and fair. Implement your demands at last. In that case, you can count on the support of the NPD!

But Koch mouthed off without taking something into account: his own record. And especially his local SPD opposition was quick to point out two things: (1) during his PM-ship, he cut the Hessen police force by 1,000, (2) with on average almost four months from event to verdict for youth crime cases, Hessen lags far behind most other German states. This played big even in the implicitely pro-Right private television.

Koch was forced to admit these with bluster, and try some less effective excuses (like blaming it on the federal state -- but that would blame Merkel).

Now all this is happening as part of the campaign for the 27 January elections in Hessen. Recent polls (check Hessen state polls here) suggested major losses for Koch's Hessen CDU, and even though it was predicted to remain largest party, the Left Party's showing (whether it manages to pass 5%) is expected to decide whether he will have a majority even with his potential coalition partner (the [neo]liberal FDP; with the SPD, Greens and the Left Party being the impossible coalition partners).


Escalation

Now while Koch and Beckstein led the rhetorical campaign, the entire CDU lined up in support of more strict youth criminal laws at a meeting. The SPD kept against.

But the conflict really escalated further with the entry of a true heavyweight: ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder. At a local election event in Hamburg (which is also one of the federal states, and has elections on 24 February, with polls showing the CDU set to lose to SPD+Greens), he attacked Koch -- and Merkel. According to SPIEGEL:

Die Debatte über Jugendgewalt und junge kriminelle Ausländer wird immer schärfer. Jetzt hat sich Altkanzler Gerhard Schröder in den Streit zwischen Union und SPD eingeschaltet und Roland Koch ungewöhnlich scharf attackiert. "Dieser merkwürdige Mensch sollte wirklich vor der eigenen Tür kehren", sagte Schröder über den hessischen Ministerpräsidenten, der sich seit Tagen für eine Verschärfung des Jugendstrafrechts ausspricht und um seine Wiederwahl am 27. Januar kämpft. The debate over youth violence and young criminal foreigners is growing ever more terse. Now former Chancellor Schröder has joined in the battle between the CDU and the SPD, launcing an unusually sharp attack on Roland Koch: "This curious person should really be sweeping in front of his own front door", Schröder stated about the Hessian Prime Minister who for days has been calling for tougher youth crime laws and is fighting for his re-election on January 27th.
Schröder verwies am Rande der SPD-Klausur in Hannover darauf, dass Straftaten mit rechtsextremistischem Hintergrund im vergangen Jahr um zehn Prozent zugenommen hätten. "Ich habe Herrn Koch und Frau Merkel noch nie darüber reden gehört", rief er aus. Das lege den Verdacht nahe, dass es den beiden "nur um das Schüren von Ängsten" gehe. Das Mindeste, was man ihnen laut Schröder sagen sollte: "Wer so agiert, sollte aufhören, über Integration zu reden." At the SPD meeting in Hannover, Schröder referred to the fact that criminal acts with a right-wing extremist background would[sic!] have increased 10% in the past year. "I have never heard Mr. Koch and Ms. Merkel speak about that", he proclaimed. This would give rise to the suspicion that these two were "only concerned with stoking fear". The least one should say to them, according to Schröder: "Those who act in this way should stop talking about integration."

Schöder obviously has not lost his political instincts, as he deftly moves the issue from the criminality of a few, partially foreign, youths, to Koch and Merkel's politics of fear and their apparent indifference towards right-wing violence. That charge is one that sticks, as Merkel's goverment is doing far too little about the rise of the German far-right, see this diary by nanne about that rise.

Schröder even upped the ante a day later, in an interview with Bild:

„Junge deutsche Rechtsradikale verüben im Schnitt jeden Tag drei Gewalttaten – meist gegenüber Menschen mit anderer Hautfarbe. Dazu ist von Herrn Koch und Frau Merkel nichts zu hören.“ "Young German far-righters commit on average three violent acts each day -- mostly against people with a different skin colour. We don't hear anything with regards to that from Mr. Koch and Ms. Merkel."
Schröders Vorwurf an die Kanzlerin und den Hessen-Ministerpräsident: „Offenkundig sind beide auf dem rechten Auge blind. Hier wird mit Einseitigkeiten Wahlkampf betrieben. Das ist eine Wahlkampfhetze, für die Herr Koch bekannt ist.“ Schröder's accusation towards the chancellor and the Hessen PM: "It appears that both of them are blind on the right eye. Here election campaign is made with one-sided things. This is a sedition campaign, for which Mr. Koch is well known."

CDU spokesmen reacted with outrage and dismissal: they called Schröder one without style, suggested that he lost all contact with reality due to being surrounded with bodyguards and travelling in luxury cars. And anyway, he should just shut up.

After the attacks on Schröder, the attacks on Koch & co escalated from the SPD. Federal SPD faction leader (and former defense minister) Peter Struck had some quote edgy words to say in a radio interview with Deutschlandfunk:

Struck: ...Ich frage mich, ob Herr Koch zum Beispiel das Thema auch so hochgezogen hätte, wenn es zwei deutsche Jugendliche gewesen wären, die diesen Rentner da malträtiert haben. Struck: ...I ask myself, would Mr. Koch have pulled this theme so high, had the two criminals who mistreated this pensioner been Germans.
...
...
Struck: Ich glaube, dass Roland Koch ja eigentlich von Herzen froh war, dass dieser schreckliche Vorfall in München in der U-Bahn passiert ist. Struck: I believe that in his heart, Roland Koch has actually rejoiced that this terrible incident happened in Munich in the subway.
Heinemann: Das ist eine böse Unterstellung! [Interviewer] Heinemann: That's a mean suggestion!
Struck: Ja, das weiß ich. Aber trotzdem: Ich meine, er arbeitet auch nur mit Unterstellungen. Struck: Yes, I know that. And still: I think he too only employs suggestions.

The CDU worked itself up into a collective rage. They demanded an apology from Struck. But he responded with further escalation:

The insult at the end, citing Goethe, was:

Die [CDU] kann mich mal [am Arsch lecken] [The CDU] can do me a favour [and lick my ass]

What one should bear in mind: (1) this is about the worst insult without explicit words in German (the Hessen Left Party leader Willy van Ooyen could barely keep up by calling Koch a trigger-happy violent offender), (2) Struck is about the blandest leading politician in the SPD, so this coming from him almost suggests a provocation pre-planned by the entire SPD leadership.

In response, Struck's successor as defense minister, Franz-Josef Jung (CDU/Anden-Pakt, former Koch intimus) called Struck unfit for office. But the SPD leadership, including chairman Kurt Beck, firmly stood by Struck. Which finally forced chancellor Angela Merkel to weigh in:

Ich fordere den SPD-Vorsitzenden auf, hier Vernunft einkehren zu lassen und nicht die Absicherung von wirklich abenteuerlichen Sprüchen zu betreiben. I call upon the chairman of the SPD to let sanity prevail, and not pursue the safeguarding of truly adventurous adages.

Note Merkel's special situation: she may not have much time for Koch and his right-populism herself, but with her party firmly supporting that line, she can't appear to oppose it. What's more, one can safely assume that the Anden-Pakt consciously intends to push her over the brink on this issue (read 2005 analyis/prediction re Merkel vs Anden-Pakt by DoDo). In an earlier press conference, she was already forced to parrot Koch:

"Es kann in Wahlkämpfen keine Tabuthemen geben" – deshalb habe Roland Koch das Thema aufgebracht. "Thre can be no taboo themes in an election campaign" -- that's why Roland Koch brought up this theme.

* * *

What will all this lead to? We don't know yet. Polls show that a majority don't think current laws suffice, but would prefer prevention to stricter punishments, yet wide majorities are for the proposals on deportation of violent foreign youth and for 'warning arrests' (but not for boot camps).

Display:
A lot of pink and green! We should join dvx in his profession...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 10:10:34 AM EST
If we are here: what would be the best English equivalent for "von Herzen froh" (used by Struck in his initial "mean suggestion")?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Overjoyed" would work pretty well. Or, a little longer: "In his heart he must have rejoiced that..."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:43:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks; I tried to apply that one.

Also, I noticed that somehow a central part of the story went amiss: Koch's bundle of proposals for tougher youth criminal laws. (Which will only underline how Koch was stealing from the CSU.) So now you'll find an added paragraph.

Also added: the 'reason' for the Munich subway attack.

Finally, I add only in this comment the results of another poll I just found. Though it was released on 9 January, before the big escalation between SPD and CDU, it should give reason for hope that

  • only 25% think that Koch's push re foreign youth crime is motivated by honest concern;
  • even in the CDU+CSU, 54% view Koch's move as a campaign tactic;
  • in Hessen, 65% think it is a campaign tactic;
  • only 18% want an increased role for Koch at the federal level (Wulff: 34%),
  • even in the CDU+CSU, only 23% want increased federal role, 37% are against.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 01:24:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could write "in [his] heart, [he] was happy [that]", I'd guess.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:44:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It certainly keeps one at the computer, doesn't it?

Nice work, guys!

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:40:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Detailed, insightful, and brilliantly done.  (Hadn't heard Struck's comment before.  "Kann mich mal."  Stellar.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 10:42:01 AM EST
Also look at his facial expression before, during and after he says it! Phenomenal.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 10:46:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On an additional note: who is the most dangerous man in Germany?

I don't know. Koch and Beckstein both might suffer for being a bit too high-profile in the news. Meanwhile, note that on 27 January, there will be elections in another state, too: Lower Saxony, Schröder's former domain. Lower Saxony is currently headed byr PM Christian Wulff (CDU/Anden-Pakt), who is much widely popular and keeps a much lower profile than Koch, but may 'get more done'. And polls show that unlike his colleagues in Hessen and Hamburg, he is on track for re-election, with a barely reduced comfortable majority for his CDU-FDP coalition.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 10:45:42 AM EST
Yes, Wulff is a more likely candidate to eventually succeed Merkel as CDU leader, because he's more likeable. But he is going to wait in the wings, especially if Koch loses. Unfortunately, the SPD is not going to win all the elections. But it could win 2 out of 3. There is a real chance at a red-green government in Hamburg as well.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 06:45:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's in our diary :-) ...but in the form of a little incoherence, which I'm too drowsy to clear up tonight: I do recall reading that Schröder first took the word at a campaign event in Hamburg, but the quoted article (one brought by you) says Hannover, possibly I messed up like Rocky and Raging Bull.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 06:49:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the things that always fascinated me about Helmut Kohl was the way he just sat back and let his intra-party competitors destroy themselves. Merkel seems to have taken the master's lessons to heart.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:47:27 AM EST
Meanwhile, Koch's challenger, Andrea Ypsilanti, has gotten a string of favourable press profiles:

See Welt: Schwache Andrea Ypsilanti ist plötzlich stark (Weak Andrea Ypsilanti is suddenly strong)

Zeit: Was ist der Yps-Faktor?

From the Zeit article:

Doch, sagt Andrea Ypsilanti und lässt sich in einen Stuhl im Frankfurter Bahnhofsrestaurant fallen, an dem Vergleich mit Ségolène Royal sei schon etwas dran. Die schöne Sozialistin gegen den konservativen Fiesling, vermeintlich weiche Themen gegen harte, ein stark polarisierter Wahlkampf und der ständige mal laut, mal leise geäußerte Zweifel »Kann die das?«. Manchmal habe sie geradezu Déjà-vu-Erlebnisse gehabt, wenn sie die Berichterstattung über die französische Präsidentschaftskandidatin und sich selbst verfolgt habe, sagt Ypsilanti.

Gleich muss sie weiter zur Moschee im Gutleutviertel, hier um die Ecke. Am Morgen hat Roland Koch ein Burka-Verbot an Schulen gefordert - obwohl bislang in Hessens Schulen keine einzige Burka-Trägerin gesichtet wurde. Da passt der Moscheebesuch besonders gut, um sich einmal wieder als größtmögliche Alternative zu Koch zu präsentieren. Ségolène Royal hat am Ende mit ihrer Strategie gegen den robusten Sarkozy verloren, doch die hessische Spitzenkandidatin der SPD sieht darin kein Omen, eher eine lehrreiche Warnung. Nicht zu wenig Härte, glaubt Ypsilanti, sei Royal zum Verhängnis geworden, sondern zu wenig Klarheit. "Am Ende hat sie zu viele Kompromisse gemacht, sie hat geglaubt, sie müsse in die Mitte rücken, und hat ihr Profil nicht durchgehalten."

Well, says Andrea Ypsilanti as she lets herself fall into a chair in the Frankfurt train station, there is, still, something to the comparison with Ségolène Royal. The pretty socialist against the conservative bully, supposedly soft themes against supposedly hard themes, a heavily polarised campaign, and the constantly uttered doubt, sometimes load, sometimes silent: "Can she do it?". At times she almost had a déjà-vu when she followed the news coverage about the French presidential candidate and about herself, Ypsilanti states.

In a moment she has to go on to visit a mosque in the Gutleutviertel, just around the corner from here. In the morning, Roland Koch had demanded a ban on burkas in schools - although so far not a single girl with a burka has been sighted in Hesse's schools. A visit to the mosque is especially fitting in this context, to once again present herself as the greatest possible alternative to Koch. Ségolène Royal lost with her strategy against the robust Sarkozy, but the Hessian frontrunner for the SDP sees no omen in this, more an instructive warning. Not a lack of toughness, Ypsilanti believes, would have led to the fate of Royal, but a lack of clarity. "In the end she made too many compromises. She believed that she had to move to the centre, and did not perservere in her profile."


Smart politics. Did I mention that she has an excellent energy plan?
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 12:52:56 PM EST

fall into a chair in the Frankfurt train station

In "the restaurant in" the Frankfurt train station. (I wonder which one, but probably the one with prices too high for my purse last August ;-) ).

Thanks for these links, I didn't became aware of sudden positive coverage.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 01:31:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent informative stuff!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 01:33:14 PM EST
The youth crime law debate was held in the German parliament. Very heated and emotional exchanges, which saw the Union parties (e.g. CDU and CSU) isolated: even the FDP stood by their liberal roots. What's more, the FDP speaker criticised cuts at the wrong place (police & justice) by Koch in Hessen state.

However, Koch remains anything but isolated within the Union parties, who named him head of a committee on "safety in public places"...

Much good points have been made that had also been made earlier. But the rhetorical quip of the day belongs to foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD), who called for sanity to prevail, but followed up with this curious formulation (hehe):

Treibt in einer so ernsten Frage nicht jeden Tag eine neue Sau durchs Dorf! In such a serious question, let's not hunt a new pig across town every single day!


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 04:37:44 PM EST
Thank you for the interesting diary.  I have a few comments.

It's obvious that crimes committed by young foreigners in Germany have become an election campaign issue in true German political style, with the Right snarling at the Left and the Left barking at the Right. Unfortunately, the criticism from Gerhard Schröder seems to imply that his erstwhile political opponents tolerate crimes committed by rightwing extremists while speaking up to condemn crimes committed by foreigners. The diary seems so intent on exposing the worst culprits of the evil Right that too little is said, in my humble opinion, about fears of rank-and-file Germans, regardless of their political affiliations, whom the politicians are addressing.

Take the case that entered the annals as Mehmet, which is left to a Wikipedia explanation in German, without an English translation. Mehmet is the pseudononym initially given under privacy laws to an underage offender who is a Turkish citizen. The case contributed considerably to the law-and-order reputation of Günther Beckstein, then the Bavarian interior minister, who deported the boy to Turkey but later lost a bid in a Bavarian high court to keep him out of Germany, where he was born and his Turkish parents live with permanent residency permits. The boy had committed theft, burglary, assault and battery, and extortion in more than 60 documented cases before he reached 14, the legal age of accountability under juvenile prosecution laws. The boy had been undergoing therapy ordered by the Bavarian youth welfare authorities for a number of years while he was under 14, all to no avail. After Muhlis Ari, his real name, turned 14, he injured another boy in school so badly that the boy had to be hospitalized. That's when the story hit the media, and details started emerging about Mehmet. Finally, in 2005, a Munich court sentenced the young man to 18 months in jail after he had beaten his mother and father, extorted money from his parents and threatened to kill them. He fled to Turkey before the sentence took effect.

It would have been helpful if the diary had given the question Koch was asked when he answered by speaking about "too many criminal young foreigners." Bild had asked:



Was sagt es über den Stand der Integration, wenn der Anteil jugendlicher Ausländer an Gewaltkriminalität laut Statistiken sichtbar höher ist als ihr Anteil an der Gesamtbevölkerung.What does it say about the status of integration when the percentage of young foreigners involved in violent crime, according to statistics, is conspicuously higher than their proportional representation in the overall population?

Is that true? Is that what the statistics say?

by Anthony Williamson on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 01:38:45 AM EST
Your last question first:

Of course it is true. But it is also a politically charged misrepresentation. Another case of lying with statistics. If you control for the socio-economic background of young foreigners, you see that the difference becomes much less marked. At least a criminologist I saw on German teeveee last week stated that there was little difference.

This issue is complex. What the Mehmet case illustrates is that the right offers up a symbolic solution (extradition) which it can't carry through. For instance, you can't deport a young Greek because he's an EU citizen, and you can't deport a young Turk who lives in Germany because of a treaty, signed at the EU level. It conflicts with EU law, it conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights, and it probably also conflicts with the German Verfassung. So, it's never going to hold up, but yet the right keeps pounding its symbolic drumbeat of deportations. Purely for electoral purposes, in this case.

We had the same nonsense going on in Italy a few months ago with regard to Romanians.

Originally, I was concerned with how the left could win such a debate, but the right has since completely lost control over the developing media story, so DoDo and I did a rundown of how that happened.

What I did find out in the mean while is that there is a large amount of debate among criminologists about which approach will work and that I am largely unqualified to comment upon it. If you have the time to read the wiki article on zero tolerance, you will find that it is (in some parts) written from a POV that is outright hostile to that approach.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 05:11:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You wrote:

This issue is complex. What the Mehmet case illustrates is that the right offers up a symbolic solution (extradition) which it can't carry through. For instance, you can't deport a young Greek because he's an EU citizen, and you can't deport a young Turk who lives in Germany because of a treaty, signed at the EU level. It conflicts with EU law, it conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights, and it probably also conflicts with the German Verfassung. So, it's never going to hold up, but yet the right keeps pounding its symbolic drumbeat of deportations. Purely for electoral purposes, in this case.

The issue is indeed complex; therefore, I don't believe it can be reduced entirely to Right-versus-Left terms, though there is that element to it as well as an "election campaign drumbeat"at the present time. It's certainly true that laws against deportation from Germany have been tightened in recent years, but close inspection reveals that in each new decision there are caveats allowing deportation after consideration of strict criteria applied to a particular case.

The Mehmet affair in Munich is a case touted as a purely Right-Left controversy; however, there were ordinary people of every political stripe in the Bavarian capital who applauded the deportation of Muhlis Ari, the young Turk's real name, and they regretted the Bavarian court decision allowing him to return to Munich. The case genuinely alarmed those who were concerned about violence and crime involving youngsters. Many a voice could be heard in Munich saying, "We have no choice but to deal with our own German offenders, but let's deport foreign citizens, who are not our responsibility." That widespread reaction in Munich is a fact, and there's no getting round it.

You wrote:

What I did find out in the mean while is that there is a large amount of debate among criminologists about which approach will work and that I am largely unqualified to comment upon it. If you have the time to read the wiki article on zero tolerance, you will find that it is (in some parts) written from a POV that is outright hostile to that approach.

German media over the years have reported visits of American officials invited to Munich to explain their success at home with zero tolerance. One such American was quoted in the German press as saying: "Why do you Germans put up all your signs banning this or that when you don't enforce the ban? What then is the good of a smoking ban on public transportation or a ban against riding a bicycle the wrong way in a one-way street?"  The Americans advocated strict enforcement of every single ban. Otherwise, they said, don't put up the signs.

by Anthony Williamson on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 04:41:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How is a boy born, educated and raised in Germany not a German problem? Other than the bizarre and racist laws on citizenship?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 04:45:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, Antony, the subject of crime and how to deal with it, especially crimes as emotionaly charged as the ones DoDo and I talked about -- is not a simple left-right issue.

To have this out of the way: In the current political context of upcoming elections and in the German media environment that is spinning narratives on that, and the public that reacts to the controversy... the debate between those two sides is a story in its own right. We decided to focus on that. I feel that we were entirely justified in choosing that focus, that we were clear about it and that we managed to put together a piece that is tranparently partial to the left, but not blind about the vulnerabilities of the left in this issue.

Now: what you focus on is something different. It's a worthwhile issue to debate. But I want to make it as clear as possible that it is not what we set out to report on and that I do not think we ommitted anything by not discussing it. To the contrary, the piece would have lost its focus if we had included it, by trying to deal with too many issues at once. So: when you say that there is something missing because we do not discuss ways of dealing with crime, or do not discuss fears among the population, I think that you are moving the goalposts.

To move on to this very different debate:

The Mehmet affair in Munich is a case touted as a purely Right-Left controversy; however, there were ordinary people of every political stripe in the Bavarian capital who applauded the deportation of Muhlis Ari, the young Turk's real name, and they regretted the Bavarian court decision allowing him to return to Munich. The case genuinely alarmed those who were concerned about violence and crime involving youngsters. Many a voice could be heard in Munich saying, "We have no choice but to deal with our own German offenders, but let's deport foreign citizens, who are not our responsibility." That widespread reaction in Munich is a fact, and there's no getting round it.

I'll be relatively short about this. The purpose of the set of policies a society employs to deal with crime should be about dealing with crime. Not, except maybe at the margin, about dealing with the fears of the common citizen, or the visceral emotional reaction people can develop when responding to a specific high-profile criminal act. Those fears should be reduced by reducing crime, and if they are not, by better educating the public about security.

On the point of zero tolerance: as I stated there is a very spirited debate on its efficacy, as you can read in the wiki, which I am unqualified to comment upon at this time.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 04:29:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the criticism from Gerhard Schröder seems to imply that his erstwhile political opponents tolerate crimes committed by rightwing extremists

Say it aint' so!

too little is said, in my humble opinion, about fears of rank-and-file Germans

What do the fears of rank-and-file Germans have to do with attacking proposals of FALSE solutions? The safety of average Germans is NOT improved by by spectacularly dumping some people while leaving the problem of the system failing to reform some repeated youth offenders unsolved. (Where you should note that violent youth crime is decreasing in Germany.)

After Muhlis Ari, his real name, turned 14, he injured another boy in school so badly that the boy had to be hospitalized. That's when the story hit the media, and details started emerging about Mehmet. Finally, in 2005, a Munich court sentenced the young man to 18 months in jail after he had beaten his mother and father, extorted money from his parents and threatened to kill them. He fled to Turkey before the sentence took effect.

Now there you leave out the essential part of the story. Beckstein did succeed in deporting him. Muhlis was sent to relatives in Turkey, where his case was noticed enough that he got a job in a music television. He spent IIRC two years there, before the courts allowed him back.

What this proves to me is that deportation is NOT solving problems but exporting them.

Another thing not mentioned is that these "foreigners" were/are foreigners only because of Germany's restrictive bloodline citizenship laws. In many other countries, being born there is reason enough for citizenship. This non-citizen status is certainly part of the problem.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:38:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You wrote:

Now there you leave out the essential part of the story. Beckstein did succeed in deporting him. Muhlis was sent to relatives in Turkey, where his case was noticed enough that he got a job in a music television. He spent IIRC two years there, before the courts allowed him back.

"Noticed enough?" Unfortunately, that's not the story (Wikipedia leaves out a lot).  The Muhlis Ari case became a cause célèbre for the Istanbul newspaper Hürriyet, which has a huge readership among Turkish-speakers in Germany, and in other Turkish media that spoke out regularly on his behalf. Therefore, a TV station in Turkey offered him a job as co-moderator of a music show aimed at teenagers when he ended up in Turkey initially as a deportee. The station was trying to cash in on his notoriety and publicity in Turkish media. German TV later showed excerpts of the Turkish show in which poor Muhlis was obviously totally out of his league. It wasn't hard for a viewer even to feel sorry for the brutalo, watching him bumble about the stage. It wasn't long before his Turkish TV colleagues started telling German correspondents in Istanbul that the station was going to drop him because he spoke primitive Turkish (his German is primitive, too), and he also wasn't able to learn the job. Then German correspondents learned that he was suspected of stealing equipment from the TV station, which decided to fire him with as little publicity as possible so as not to lose face.

It's better not to go into the details of some of the reports about the case carried by Hürriyet and other Turkish media. Such reports can only provoke resentment and more intolerance of Turks in Germany, where there's already enough of that. Just one translation into German already got some Germans' backs up. As a result of the translation, readers learned among other things that the logo in the masthead of Hürriyet says "Türkiye Türklerindir" (Turkey Belongs to the Turks), a historical slogan that nevertheless had some people asking whether the same doesn't hold true for Germany. Germany belongs to the Germans?

You wrote:

Another thing not mentioned is that these "foreigners" were/are foreigners only because of Germany's restrictive bloodline citizenship laws. In many other countries, being born there is reason enough for citizenship. This non-citizen status is certainly part of the problem.

Restrictive? Many countries, in Europe and elsewhere, have the same law as Germany. The law could be changed if there is a consensus for change, but a change should probably best come about within the EU framework, applicable to the entire union. The possibility of that is doubtful at this time.

by Anthony Williamson on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 04:57:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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