Ruettgers′ Romania slur meant to placate the far right, author says | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.09.2009
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Ruettgers' Romania slur meant to placate the far right, author says

Romanian-born writer Vlad Georgescu has filed charges of sedition and defamation against the premier of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. He told Deutsche Welle why he did it and what he hopes will come of it.

North Rhine Westphalia Premier Juergen Ruettgers

Ruettgers relies on inflammatory rhetoric, according to Georgescu

Christian Democrat Juergen Ruettgers has said in several speeches during the recent local election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia that Romanian workers were not punctual, did what they liked and didn't know what they were doing. His remarks were made against a controversial background: many workers had lost their jobs when a factory in the state had been moved to Romania.

Vlad Georgescu has said that Chancellor Merkel, who is also chairman of the Christian Democrats, should sack Ruettgers as her deputy. He has also called on German citizens with foreign origins to boycott the Christian Democrats in the forthcoming general election.

DW: Mr. Georgescu, isn't this just campaign rhetoric? Why are you taking it so seriously?

Vlad Georgescu: We think that Article 1 of the German constitution describes human dignity as the most valuable thing we have in Germany and in our democracy. This is not a matter of the electoral campaign, but rather is a question of why the premier of North Rhine Westphalia doesn't know this article. If he doesn't know the articles, then I think he should resign.

North Rhine Westphalia Premier Juergen Ruettgers with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Ruettgers: 'not someone with nothing to say' to Merkel

Well I'm sure he does know the article. Do you really think he's a racist?

Juergen Ruettgers uses racist phrases to reach the far right voters, I suppose. As a German citizen born in Romania, I really would like to say that I don't think we need such speeches. What we really need are real visions to solve the problems of the country in the future – the economic problems, the ethical problems. I don't know if Mr. Ruettgers privately believes what he is talking about in public, but this is not an excuse. What he said was recorded and there are a lot of people who could see the speech, and this is the reason why we think there is a need to boycott the Christian Democratic Party, the CDU, as long as Mr. Ruettgers is premier in North Rhine Westphalia.

But he has apologized. He has admitted that it was a mistake and he shouldn't have said it.

From a judicial point of view, I think this is a solution that doesn't work. In Germany you can't just insult people and then say, "Okay, folks, I'm sorry about it." I think this is a politically strategic act by Mr. Ruettgers. He knows that by saying that Romanian, Chinese and other foreigners are the people who take away the jobs in Germany, he is able to really reach those people who are leaning towards voting for the NPD or other far right parties. After having said this, he is now trying to give the impression that he's sorry about it, but he's not sorry. This isn't the first time he has used such phrases and I think it's a strategy being used by the CDU in North Rhine Westphalia.

Shoppers walking along a street in Brasov, Romania

Romania has also felt the crisis, Georgescu says

You've actually called on Chancellor Merkel to sack him as one of the deputy leaders of the Christian Democrats. What has she got to do with it?

Chancellor Merkel is responsible for the top leaders in her party and Mr. Ruettgers is not someone who has nothing to say in the party. He tries to give the impression that he's fighting for workers' rights. He is someone who has a lot of power as premier and who has a lot of power within the CDU at the top levels. So Mrs. Merkel needs to decide if she wants to keep such people and such racist phrases in her party or not.

I think that as long as Chancellor Merkel decides to stay with Ruettgers, many people coming from the outside – migrants like me – will really have a right to boycott this party and say that as long as they hold such speeches then we will not vote for them.

But the fact is that foreigners don't vote for the CDU anyway, do they?

My parents did. There are a lot of foreigners – I'm speaking now about foreigners coming from Romania – who have a socialist background. There are many people coming from the former Soviet Union bloc who have this background. Many of them, the older people, are afraid of the politics of the left or the Socialists. So these people really did vote for the CDU, I think. For example, I have spoken to my mother and she was very upset. She told me I can't blame the whole party for what Mr. Ruettgers said. And I explained to her that yes, that really is what I want to do because I can assure everyone that the Romanian workers are working just as hard as the German workers. There is, in fact, no difference. We're living in the European Union and the times are hard here and they're hard in Romania. I think the CDU underestimates the danger of such speeches.

Interview: Michael Lawton (mrm)
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn

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