The German Green Party's chancellor candidate Jürgen Trittin recently held talks with the Obama administration in Washington. He tells DW why he thinks Germany should take in more Syrian asylum-seekers.
DW: Following your talks with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the US government over Syria, what course would you say Obama is likely to take?
Jürgen Trittin: In my opinion, the US government has taken an important step forward. It is pushing for a renewed and serious attempt to politically solve the Syrian conflict, together with Russia. This is a good move in the currently disastrous situation where Jordan has become completely destabilized and the war is reaching Lebanon's doorstep.
What role could Germany and the European Union play in all this?
Europe and Germany need to assist with the problem of refugees. There are currently 450,000 refugees in Jordan, and 450,000 in Lebanon - countries that have already taken in countless asylum-seekers from Iraq and Palestine. Europe's involvement is particularly appropriate here.
When you return from your trip, are you planning to issue a call for refugee quotas for Germany?
Germany first needs to ensure that war-affected relatives of German residents can come to Germany. I absolutely cannot understand why these people are not allowed to enter the country - especially someone, for example, whose siblings want to get him out of a refugee camp in Jordan, and intend to cover his living expenses and health insurance here. I don't understand why we in Germany are hindering the natural behavior of siblings caring for each other.
And we in Europe will have to discuss how we can better support the UN in dealing with the refugee problem. We need to become more involved in this issue.
One gets the impression that there is more discussion of supplying weapons to Syria. How do you see this after your talks?
Firstly, the rebels have enough weapons at their disposal. Secondly, we shouldn't give them the weapons they want because these are anti-aircraft weapons. Thirdly, this matter is undergoing reconsideration - at least in the European Union. France and Britain, which were earlier pushing for supplying weapons, are no longer pursuing this policy, while France has abandoned the idea.
On a different note, the planned US-EU free trade agreement was also mentioned in your discussions. How do the prospects for this look, based on what you've heard?
The negotiations will begin as soon as the mandates have been agreed on in US Congress and the European Council. Whether this will produce results is hard to say. It's a difficult topic – because it's really about recognizing the other side's political standards. For example, the US Congress would have to accept that we don't consider climate-protection measures as barriers to trade.
We need to clarify, for example, whether unconventionally won gas - such as that extracted through fracking - can in the future be exported from the US to Europe. There are many open questions.
Tax policy is quite a hot topic in the US right now. The Greens' fiscal plans are another financial topic that you're dealing with. You've been accused of burdening the middle class with this. Do you have any new perspectives on this, or are there any statements you'd like to take back?
Firstly, the Greens' tax policy unburdens 90 percent of income tax payers, so it can't be said that the middle class is impacted. Secondly, we especially take the burden off low-income earners in that we aim to finally introduce an official minimum wage, through this giving people more money to live on.
And there's one area where we can learn something from the American tax system. The US derives more than 3 percent of its tax revenue from property and inheritance taxes. In Germany, this figure is only 0.9 percent. And we Greens have made the modest suggestion that millionaires should yield 1.5 percent of their total wealth over a 10-year period to help pay off financial crisis debts. I think that compared to "socialist" America, the Greens' taxes are really low.