Jens Spahn, Germany's incoming health minister, has defended the Tafel food bank's decision to turn away non-Germans. Speaking to German media, Spahn also said he was hopeful the conservatives could win back AfD voters.
Jens Spahn, Germany's designated health minister in the incoming government, has defended a food bank's decision to bar foreigners from registering.
In an interview on Saturday with Germany's Funkemedia group, Spahn said young men who queued up outside the small food bank in the city of Essen looked "so bold and robust that the elderly and single parents no longer had any chance of receiving any food."
It was therefore right for the food bank to take action, the lawmaker for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) added.
Last month, the Tafel food bank in Essen entered Germany's heated debates on xenophobia, migration and poverty after it decided to stop issuing membership cards to foreigners.
Jens Spahn supported the Essen food bank, saying something needed to be done to ensure young people and single parents receive food
Jörg Sartor, the chairman of the Essen Tafel, said the food bank had changed the rules because about 75 percent of the 6,000 people it served across the city were foreign-born. Older Germans and single German parents therefore risked being pushed away and deterred, he added.
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in, saying it "wasn't good" that the Tafel was handing out membership cards based on citizenship. However, she also conceded that the situation highlighted "the pressure that [nonprofits] are facing."
German social system among' best in the world'
Spahn called the debate on the food bank overdone because Germany's statutory basic social system ranks among "the best in the world."
Though the food banks support people in need, Spahn said, "nobody in Germany would have to starve if the Tafel service didn't exist."
Germany's welfare system, known as Hartz IV, has suffered several cutbacks in recent years, but Spahn insisted that it would continue to be measured and adjusted under the new government. "Everyone will therefore have what they need to live," the incoming health minister said.
Read more: German issues in a nutshell: Hartz IV
Not all AfD voters 'forgone Nazis'
Spahn also reached out to voters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party during Saturday's interview.
"I want to convince you of the Union again," Spahn said, referring to the conservative bloc made up of Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
The CDU/CSU lost almost 1 million voters to the AfD in the 2017 federal elections.
The far-right party has attracted anti-migrant supporters in Germany, and a handful of AfD lawmakers have been called out for xenophobic statements. Politicians such as Björn Höcke "show themselves to be utterly racist, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic," Spahn said.
Last year, Höcke attacked Germany's national Holocaust memorial and the country's devotion to teaching its citizens about Nazi genocide.
Nevertheless, Spahn said AfD voters were not "forgone Nazis," but stressed that party members know whom they support.
The newly appointed health minister admitted that his CDU and the AfD would "inevitably" vote together on some issues in the Bundestag or state parliaments.
dm/jlw (KNA, epd, dpa)