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Gauck: German democracy stable despite violence toward refugees

President Joachim Gauck has said Germany's strong institutions and civil society will protect democracy from any populist lurch to the right. Gauck condemned "reprehensible" right-wing attacks on asylum seekers.

Despite a right-wing backlash against uncontrolled mass migration and a rise in attacks on asylum residences German democracy is not in danger, Gauck said in a broad-ranging interview on public television.

"We now have institutions that function, a good constitution, guardians of democracy and a

strong civil society

such that we have never had before," Gauck said on Sunday, dismissing any comparison with the unstable and fractionalized politics of the post-WWI Weimar Republic.

While Germany has experienced instances of "reprehensible" attacks on asylum seekers, "every one of which is one too many," Gauck also pointed out there were many citizens engaged with the refugee issue who act as a counter to

xenophobia.

Germany has been at the heart of Europe's refugee crisis, which has led to a

surge in support for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD)

and a worrying spike in attacks on refugees. The crisis has tested European unity and strengthened euroskeptic parties across the 28-member bloc.

With an eye towards rising euro-skepticism and an

imminent British vote

on whether to leave the EU, Gauck said politicians must have a conversation with their citizens to convince them of the EU's benefits.

The president said some people - whether British or Polish - feel their national identity could be taken away from them. In order to protect the idea of a united Europe, "it is absolutely necessary to bring along those citizens who have reservations," he said.

There must be conversations with citizens to explain the economic and political benefits of EU membership, Gauck said.

Many had hoped that as a moderate and respected figure, Gauck would stay on for a second term in order to help guide German politics through a potentially stormy period. But in announcing he would not run for a second term earlier this month due to his age, the president also sent a signal that he believed the country's institutions would manage without him.

Watch video 02:02

Refugees: in their own words

cw/kms (AFP, dpa)

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