Political Overview: De Maiziére pushes “Leitkultur”, Merkel in Brussels, Russia, Middle East, FDP Convention

Minister De Maizière pushing his national conservative agenda, much to the chagrin of Chancellor Merkel. Photo Credit: Olaf Kosinsky/Skillshare.eu

Federal Minister for Interior Affairs Thomas de Maiziére has published 10 theses on German “Leitkultur” (dominant or guiding culture), calling on immigrants to assimilate to German culture and observe local customs such as “shaking hands when greeting”. Neither the ideas nor the following debate is new, reflecting Germany’s slow awakening of being an immigration-society. CDU Vice Chairmen Thomas Strobl and Armin Laschet reacted with praise. CSU General Secretary Andreas Scheuer agreed: “It’s about time that this discussion happens in Berlin as well.”

SPD and FDP chairmen Martin Schulz and Christian Lindner both insisted that no theses on Leitkultur were necessary, referring to the German constitution instead, while Green party leader Simone Peters criticised that instead of culture debates, Government should work on an improved security policy.

Overall, integration of immigrants reemerges as a campaign issue: Following the Turkish constitutional referendum, which was supported by 60% of cast votes in Germany, some CDU members had called for an end of dual citizenship — a step Ms Merkel has ruled out. In a later interview, Mr Schulz extended his criticism, arguing that the debate was used to distract from the case of a presumed Nazi-terrorist within the German Army, a matter which also puts the German Minister of Defense Ursual von der Leyen under pressure.

After a visit to Brussels, Chancellor Angela Merkel went to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to talk about human rights, economic and security cooperation, G20 and regional conflicts. On return, she also met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sotchi to discuss conflicts from Ukraine and Syria to Yemen. Germany’s foreign policy establishment welcomed the talks.

At the FDP’s party conference over the weekend, the Liberals passed their manifesto for September’s general election and confirmed Christian Lindner as lead candidate with 91%. The manifesto focuses on education and digitisation, including investment into the digital infrastructure of schools and digital education of teachers. Beyond education, the manifesto seeks to create more accommodative conditions for entrepreneurs and to give consumers more control over their data. The manifesto also covers civil rights, foreign policy, and taxation.

Mr Schulz meanwhile has come under scrutiny for his personnel policy when back as EP President. Polling gives even less good news for the Social Democrats, they dropped by 8 points, scoring 28% now, with the CDU/CSU scoring 41% (+4), the Left 8% (+2), the Greens 8% (+1), FDP 7% (+3), and the AfD 6% (+/- 0). Also on personnel, the CDU has regained her support hand: Half of all respondents would vote for Ms Merkel 50%, while Mr Schulz would only get 37%. In Saarland, CDU and SPD agreed to renew their grand coalition.

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