DW's Tim Sebastian spoke to Frauke Petry, leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Leipzig on 21 March, 2016. This is the official transcript.
Tim Sebastian: Frauke Petry, welcome to Conflict Zone.
Frauke Petry: Thank you.
Sebastian: You have the distinction of being one German leader who has raised the possibility of actually shooting refugees on the border as a last resort. Are you proud of that?
Petry: Well, you see, I actually never said that. And the discussion about how to control German borders led to a very weird situation in public because we had headlines all over the place stating basically the opposite of what I said.
Sebastian: But what you did say in the paper, if I can remind you, is that 'German border guards must prevent illegal border crossing and even use fire arms if necessary. I don't want that either. Armed force is the last resort.' That is exactly what you did say. So you did raise the prospect of shooting refugees…
Sebastian: … As a last resort.
Petry: Yes, I basically quoted a German law that still exists. And as a last resort the use of weapons is possible, but we agree, we all agree on that we never want the last, the ultimate ratio to happen.
Sebastian: But why, in a highly charged atmosphere, do you raise the specter of actually shooting them on the border?
Petry: Actually again, the use of weapons is not the same as using weapons against people. Again, I think it would be very…
Sebastian: But you didn’t say 'fire in the air', did you?
Petry: But that would be the first thing to do, of course. You see, I didn't even raise it myself. The question is what topics are raised also by journalists to make our party appear in a very specific way.
Sebastian: You are not responsible for what you say?
Petry: Well, of course I'm very responsible for what I say, but again, securing German borders, controlling them as now 26 out of 28 European states decided to do without Germany's help, is something we have to talk about. And if it's a democratic party raising the problem that our border guards, our policemen, are not allowed to do their job, because the government basically refuses to take responsibility for our national borders, then it's not a party like the AfD posing the problem, but our government.
Sebastian: Ok, but you are the only one who has mentioned. I'd like to just…
Petry: Oh no, again, I'm sorry, that is not true. We have green politicians, Boris Palmer, and also…
Sebastian: Who are talking about shooting people?
Petry: Yeah, he…
Petry: He talked about securing European borders. It was a Christian Democrat, again…
Sebastian: But he didn't talk about armed force, did he?
Petry: Oh yes, of course he did! Oh yes!
Sebastian: When? When? When? When?
Petry: Weeks ago, in public, and you can also read it in all sorts of newspapers. Yes.
Sebastian: You raised, you raised the specter and I just would like to explore the topic a little bit with you, because…
Petry: Yes, but I think we should get the things right, because I didn't raise it. We quoted German laws, it was especially many newspapers in Germany reversing the whole topic and telling us we wanted to shoot people. And we never said that.
Sebastian: You didn't argue with the quote that I gave you: 'Must prevent illegal border crossing and even use fire arms if necessary,' you did say that.
Petry: I did say that, but I didn't say to shoot at people.
Sebastian: But that is what it means, doesn't it?
Petry: No. It does not. There are always…
Petry: No, it does not, and the German law leaves the responsibility to our border controls, to the border guards in which way the use the weapons, which I said several times as well.
Sebastian: And so if there was ever a Chancellor Frauke Petry, if such a thing ever came to pass, would you ever give an order to border guards, as a last resort, to shoot at unarmed refugees on the border? Would you be able to give an order like that?
Petry: You see, you see, that's the difference between the so called 'Schießbefehl', which actually was an order at the inner German…
Sebastian: But I asked you a straight question. I asked you a straight question. I asked you a straight question. Yes or no? Yes or no?
Petry: No, no, no, let me… let me… let me give… you have to bear my answer.
Sebastian: You don't want to give straight answers!
Petry: Oh yes please, but…
Sebastian: You wanted the publicity from it, didn't you?
Petry: Oh no, not at all, because I…
Sebastian: You liked having these headlines.
Petry: No, I did not produce the headline, I did not raise the topic.
Sebastian: But you knew by answering it, and by speaking the way you did, you would get a lot of headlines. So you must have known that.
Petry: Should I not answer the questions? Is that what you suggest?
Sebastian: It's very interesting, because one of your leaked e-mails which was published by Vice News has you saying, quoted, maybe you didn't say that: 'Pointed and sometimes provocative statements are imperative to get us a hearing in the media, to get us the necessary attention.' Did you write that in the e-mail?
Petry: Oh yes, of course I wrote that, but that's, but that's…
Sebastian: So there you are. This is your pointed and provocative statement, isn't it? You wanted these headlines. You are desperate for them.
Petry: But you don't tell me that this is something new in politics, because all the politicians do that. Especially for a small party that finds it sometimes difficult to actually get its space in media to explain its ideas, it's necessary.
Sebastian: Oh, so now you are the victim, are you?
Petry: Oh no! Not at all, not at all! But [calling] that something new means that you don’t understand how [the] media work. So, yes of course sometimes you are provocative. I mean why, why, why does…
Sebastian: And this was provocative in a highly charged atmosphere!
Petry: But again, you don't put it the way it was and I'm surprised about that, because again, we did not, raise this topic. But I mean if you want to reduce AfD to that sort of question, we can go on for at least one hour talking about that, but we don't get an idea what AfD is. So if our aim is to understand how our party is like, then let's please not concentrate on that one point again.
Sebastian: Well, we are going into a lot about AfD, but…
Petry: I think we should differentiate, and the question, I'm sorry you didn't do that!
Sebastian: Oh, I did, I tried to get a strong answer out of you, but I didn't manage it. Ok!
Petry: Oh yes, you did!
Sebastian: Ok, alright. Your previous leader Bernd Lucke and a number of his former colleagues, who say they are now so glad to have left the AfD behind them, he spoke of the 'Infiltration of the party by xenophobic, racist, nationalist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, right-wing and left wing extremists'. Do you recognize your party from that description?
Petry: No, I don't and I think it's unfair. If that was supposed to be a question, then by asking this question you are basically anticipating me defending all that sort of prejudices, and I won't do that.
Sebastian: No, I'm asking why a man who knew your party very well, because he was the leader of it, why would he say that if it's not true? And you are telling me it's not true.
Petry: When you leave a party that you didn't manage to govern yourself, what [are] the choices you have? To leave it behind and tell the public that you failed or to leave it and try to destroy what you leave behind? [These are] the two possibilities you have and he chose the latter.
Sebastian: But I don't know many party leaders, who leave parties and actually come out with things like that: xenophobic, racist, nationalist, anti-Semitic…
Petry: Yeah, but that's rubbish. Excuse me, the AfD is made of all sorts of German citizens and even people living abroad, who think that democracy more often fails not only in Germany but also in Europe, that we have treaties that are bent if not broken, and that we need to get citizens back to behave like citizens, not just like consumers. So it's basically people sharing the idea of preserving what we developed after the Second World War. Not only in Germany, but in Europe.
Sebastian: Alright, ok. Hans-Olaf Henkel, former senior official of the party as well, he is concerned that, as he put it, he helped to bring about what he called a real monster.
Petry: Yeah, you see, may I ask a question myself? Why do you take these people that obviously failed within the party, and present me their views? Why don't you ask people…
Sebastian: Because they knew the party intimately, didn't they? Didn't they know the party intimately?
Petry: Oh no, they don't. They don't. I mean, Bernd Lucke did. Olaf Henkel never did.
Sebastian: No? No, he didn't know it.
Petry: No, not really. No. Unfortunately not. I actually told him [this] myself personally, so I have no problem repeating that in public. No, he never knew the party. I mean are you interested in our ideas?
Sebastian: Yes, I am, and I'm going to come, but… Oh yes I am.
Petry: Obviously not, because all you do is presenting me quotes from people who obviously do not like the party. Instead, you should ask me questions about how we want to change German [and] European politics, shouldn't you?
Sebastian: You can answer questions as you like…
Petry: Oh yes, I do all the time, but this is not getting us anywhere.
Sebastian: But I’m going to ask the questions that I'd like to ask because that's what a free press does.
Petry: Yeah, you can do, but…
Sebastian: Unless you want to give me a script and invite me to read it? Ok?
Petry: Oh no, not at all! But it's interesting that you don't ask me about what I think our party is and to give me the chance to present it.
Sebastian: Oh, I'm coming on to that, we have plenty of time. We have plenty of time. You are on record saying that tolerance towards or cooperation with members of extreme parties has no place in the AfD. Is that right?
Sebastian: I quoted you accurately? And yet, you find common ground with the Pegida group: 'Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.' What the Interior Minister in North Rhine-Westphalia described as 'Nazis in pinstripes'. You are happy with that? Happy to be associated with that?
Petry: What is the exact question?
Sebastian: Are you happy to be associated with a group that is labeled as Nazis in pinstripes? The Pegida group. One of whose founders, Lutz Bachmann, described refugees as 'cattle and scum'.
Petry: You see, the problem with Pegida, and the Pegida discussion, is that many people think they know what this movement is about. They put all those different movements from various places in Germany into one pot and they actually don't seem or didn't seem to have read what the AfD on the one hand, and also Pegida represented on the other hand, actually wrote about it in the past. So first of all, we were the ones that stood at the beginning of 2015 for a debate, for an open debate with Pegida because many thousands of people went onto the streets demonstrating in a democratic manner for months. Now, even looking back, [they have been demonstrating] for over a year. Nobody else from any other party even wanted to talk to people and we thought, in a democratic society, that this was not a good idea.
Sebastian: You're the natural allies of Pegida according to your deputy.
Petry: No, we are not.
Sebastian: Well, he said, Alexander Gauland is on record saying…
Petry: Yes, I know what he said. But he said we are the natural ally of people going out on the street demonstrating. This is not the same as being an ally of the organizers, of the committee.
Sebastian: You said there was 'considerable overlap' in your priorities.
Petry: And we, we never, you see the AfD got set up in 2013 and it was us who back then in 2013 stated that for example in terms of migration policy, we needed to, legally, in a legislative manner, distinguish between asylum laws and migration laws, when…
Sebastian: I'm trying to establish how close you feel to Pegida.
Petry: We don't feel close at all, Pegida was always independent of the AfD.
Sebastian: No? But Markus Pretzell, one of your key party figures…
Petry: And… And… Yes, just let me finish the sentence. And our party was never in any way collaborating with Pegida. But we think the democratic parties should care for the people demonstrating. And obviously the AfD was the only one.
Sebastian: Ok, Markus Pretzell, one of your party's MEPs in North Rhine-Westphalia, he said: "We had the discussion about whether we were the Euro-Party or the Pegida party. We are both."
Petry: "And we are much more." You should quote him in full length, if you do.
Sebastian: Okay, "but we are both". So you are the Pegida party?
Petry: No, we are… Yes, but he means... This is…
Sebastian: So do you agree [with] this statement? Let me come back to the question I asked. He [Lutz Bachmann] described refugees as 'cattle and scum'.
Petry: Well, of course we don't agree with that and we have said this so many times. I mean, again this question shows me that you try to establish a link that has never existed.
Sebastian: But instead of reading, trying to read my motives why don't you answer the question?
Petry: Well it's… I have just said to you. We had a clear statement we don’t agree with that sort of voice. We never actually allied in any way with Lutz Bachmann. So, again you have to regard…
Sebastian: Who is one of the founders of Pegida.
Sebastian: Who is one of the founders of Pegida?
Petry: Again, the Pegida movement is one in German streets of many, many German citizens that feel left alone by German politics because their ideas, their sorrows, their problems, are not being taken up by any other party. And that should be something we talk about. Why do German people have to go onto the streets demonstrating, why are they not regarded…
Sebastian: They don't have to do it, they choose to.
Petry: Yes, of course they chose to because obviously many German parties don't take seriously what German citizens think and that was the reason why we, in fact, said: 'Yes, we think that taking your democratic right and protesting against policy that you don't understand, is a democratic way to behave'. And even if we don't agree with everything people on the streets want, we should take them seriously.
Petry: And I still think this is what all democratic parties should do.
Sebastian: You talked about the press, the 'hubris of the state media with their possibly corrupt connections'. You don’t think much of the media, do you?
Petry: Well, we see in Germany… or we have seen it for a long time that we don't have neutral reporting in many cases, that comments and reports are mixed up, in I think, in a way that…
Sebastian: You have evidence of corrupt connections?
Petry: It gets hard for the readers and for the viewers to see where the neutral report is and where the personal view of the commentator is and that shouldn't happen, especially not in public media that [is] financed basically by taxes.
Sebastian: Do you have evidence of corrupt connections of the media?
Petry: I would, I would be interested in hearing which quote you're just presenting me because I can’t remember ever having said anything about corrupt. I have said…
Sebastian: You said 'possibly corrupt connections'.
Petry: I have said many times that we don't have neutral media and yes, I think that's true.
Sebastian: You think the media is dishonest?
Petry: I think, in many ways, we are not looked at in a neutral way, yes.
Sebastian: Okay. Let's talk about Islam, attitudes to Islam. Islam, you said, conveys a vision of the state 'that is totally foreign to that which we know in Europe'. Why does that matter to you?
Petry: Shouldn't we care about views that do not agree with our democratic and liberal order of state?
Sebastian: Which views in particular?
Petry: Well, you know as well as I do that the idea of state of many let's say, not the Islam as [a] whole because there are many different ways you can live Islam, that they don't agree for example [with] the German Grundgesetz and many other democratic societies. Let's take the Sharia…
Sebastian: But you say they don't have elections? They don't have parliaments? They don't have heads of state?
Petry: No no… we don't talk about that. But I mean, you get your cultural education and you have to think about how this cultural education, also in terms of religion, agrees with democratic societies in the center of Europe. And we do see that there are differences. Let's take for example the attitude of the Islam toward Christianity and Judaism. Very difficult, isn't it?
Sebastian: You are answering questions. I am asking you. I don't think people want to hear my views. I want to talk to you about a quote which came from Alexander Gauland where he said in a TV interview in June last year: 'I want to be able to say that Islam is not a part of Germany.' Is that your view too? That Islam has no place in Germany?
Petry: I think our friends from Baden-Württemberg put it in their election program in a very concise manner. They said 'Islam is not a part of Germany but fully integrated Muslim citizens, they are a part of Germany.'
Sebastian: Of the impression given, strong impression from this is that Islam has no place at all in Germany.
Petry: But I mean, I have just given you a very good quote.
Sebastian: So you disagree? But you disagree with what he said, basically?
Petry: No, I basically, basically what I've just done [is] I completed the picture. You quoted one sentence and I completed [it] with one of our election programs in Baden-Württemberg. I think that's it what… what we mean is that in fact Islam, just taken by itself with its attitude towards democratic societies, is in fact problematic. But if we talk about fully integrated Muslims and we have many of them living in Germany, who many times have for themselves created again a distance to this sort of very fundamental Islam, of course they belong to Germany.
Sebastian: But you don't, you don't…
Petry: Interestingly, if I may add that, interestingly in Freiburg we have just found out and you could find every word in the Internet, especially people with a migration background voted for the AfD and I have met quite a few people who have migrated from an Islamic background, for example from Lebanon or from Turkey, let me just finish this sentence please, and who say: 'Yes we have come to Germany in order to live in a free and democratic society and what now happens with this sort of migration, the experience is capable to destroy that sort of Germany and we don't want to have to flee again.'
Sebastian: Is your culture so vulnerable and so delicate that it's going to be destroyed by people coming in who have a different religion or dress differently or worship in a different way? I mean you don't have a full manifesto yet, I understand that's going to be agreed at your party meeting in April. But we also know that you don't want minarets in Germany, you don’t want people to wear the face veil or the Burka. Why do you feel threatened by that?
Petry: I don't think it's a question of feeling threatened but we… I think in our country and also in Europe, it's us having to decide which sort of migration we want to accept in our countries.
Sebastian: But why this obsession with where is the boundary between what is ours and what is foreign to us? Countries are melting pots these days, aren't they?
Petry: Countries have always been melting pots, but being a melting pot…
Sebastian: Why do you have to say 'This is ours and that’s theirs'. Why do [you] cause divisions like this?
Petry: The division is already there, [if] we have to talk about children in school not being able to do their swimming lessons together. If now we have to talk about separate bathing times in public swimming pools, it's not us creating division, the division is already there because there are different cultural backgrounds. And being a melting pot is okay. And Germany has been a melting pot for a very long time, but it is question of time and numbers, isn't it? And if I want to move into a new country, if I'm an immigrant, then I think that it is fairly obvious that I have to assimilate to a certain degree into the new country, if I want to be a part of it. This has always been like that.
Sebastian: 'But the health of our own nation is in danger because millions of people from all sorts of countries are streaming toward us.' This was Björn Höcke, your party leader in Thuringa. Is that really the case? You are really so in danger? Really so fragile? So under threat?
Petry: You see, these are not the words I use. But I think if we think that being a liberal country, being a democratic country, means that we can live without borders, then we are going to be capable…
Sebastian: I wasn't talking about living about borders.
Petry: But deciding about who is migrating and who is not, who is going to be part of a new country is in the end a question of borders, whether you see them or whether you don’t. When I go to France I don't see the border, but I know it's there and accept it, be it in terms of speeding limits or be it in terms of laws and legislation.
Sebastian: We are not talking about speeding limits. We are talking about repressing one culture in order to strengthen the other, aren't we?
Petry: No we don't, unless you tell me that we repress anyone.
Sebastian: Well, you don't want minarets and you don't want people wearing Burkas.
Petry: Oh, that's interesting, that's interesting. If we have laws in Germany and want that these German laws are being stuck to, we repress someone? Is that what you are telling me?
Sebastian: Not being able to have a minaret, not being able to dress the way you want, isn't that repression? You think that's normal?
Petry: So you think that Burkas and veils should be worn in public everywhere in Germany?
Sebastian: Why shouldn't they? Tell me why! Why shouldn't they? Why shouldn't they?
Petry: Why should they? No, I think they don't have to!
Sebastian: Don't have to. But you ban them.
Petry: No, we think that in German public, at schools, we've had this discussion before in Germany that this sort of religious costume should not be worn.
Sebastian: You even say that male circumcision should be outlawed. This is one of [the] things in your draft, isn't it? It's one of your things in your draft. Why is a political party interested in the male penis? Why?
Petry: No, it's not. It's not going to be in the draft.
Sebastian: It's not?
Petry: It's not.
Sebastian: But it is in the draft. You are saying it's not gonna be in the final manifesto. Is that right?
Petry: Well, you see that's the problem with individual drafts being quoted in public, as you have just done, as being our draft. And you have may read over the past days that we stated quite clearly that this was not the official draft. So it may come as a surprise to you but this is not going to be in the draft.
Sebastian: Ok, what about the part of the draft that says that therapy resistant alcoholics and drug addicts [should] not be kept inside psychiatric hospitals but put under lock and key? Is that going to be in your final draft? The sick and the suffering are told 'Go to jail and pull yourself together'. Is that right?
Petry: Maybe you come to our party assembly and find out! You see that's the problem.
Sebastian: But these are your ideas, aren't they? This is what is circulating in your party. You want to make the sick into criminals!
Petry: Shall… shall… shall we talk about EU, shall we talk about the Euro? I mean you are picking out, again it’s just the same story in your every interview. You are taking out bits and pieces, not even confirmed ones and try to draw pictures from that.
Sebastian: You feel hard done by, do you, Frauke Petry?
Petry: Oh no, it's ok. I'm used to that, but I mean it's not gonna help to draw a usual and representative picture of my party in public. So if that is what your aim is, then fair enough, well done!
Sebastian: Well, you've given a very good account of what your party is. Thank you very much for being on Conflict Zone. Thank you, Frauke Petry.