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Saxony's Tillich denies inaction

February 23, 2016

Mounting charges that Germany's Saxony state has failed to deter far-right mobs and protect refugees have been rejected by its conservative premier Stanislav Tillich. Instead, he's called for broad "societal dialog."

Deutschland Stanislaw Tillich Ministerpräsident Sachsen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Kahnert

Tillich told a press conference in Saxony's capital Dresden on Tuesday that incidents such as those at Clausnitz and Bautzen would not be tolerated and claimed his cabinet had frequently sought dialog at a local level.

His remarks coincided with a letter from another Christian Democrat (CDU) to members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, integration commissioner Cemile Giousouf, who said efforts in Saxony were not sufficient.

"The refugee crisis has allowed manifest anti-foreigner sentiment to now become evident, before all our eyes," wrote Giousouf, adding that a loud minority of far-right radicals in Saxony had become all too confident.

Three-point package

Tillich said his coalition cabinet, comprising his Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), has decided Tuesday on a three-point policy package using extra funding to boost democratic thinking.

Extra personnel would be allocated to mobile police teams to "repress" far-right activities, Tillich said.

A combined prosecutions team, including state attorneys and police, would be boosted. Several prosecutions were in progress, he added. The team would get extra resources to pursue hate proponents on social media.

And, extra funds would be allocated toward fighting extremism by "engaging" groups, including political parties, trade unions and churches, as well as hiring more teachers for the inclusion of refugee children in schools, he said.

Public discussions

Tillich asserted that cabinet ministers had frequently attended public discussions throughout Saxony during 2015 as Europe's refugee crisis began to dominate discourse in Germany.

Deutschland Heidenau Besuch Flüchtlingsunterkunft Merkel und Stanislaw Tillich
Tillich in Heidenau last August after far-right unrestImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas

Counteracting anti-foreigner sentiment was not just the task of police or the "premier and his ten ministers," but a broad task for society as a whole, said Tillich, who also heads Germany's second chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat (or Federal Council), representing the 16 federal states (or Länder).

His cabinet would consult again next week, he said, after he had made a trip to Karlsruhe where Germany's Constitutional Court will hear federal arguments to ban the far-right NPD party.

'Too little,' says Left's Hahn

Opposition Left federal parliamentarian, André Hahn, who until 2012 led his party's faction in the Dresden assembly, told German ARD public television early Tuesday that Saxony's government had done "too little."

André Hahn spricht im Reichstag
Saxony has done 'too little,' says Left's HahnImage: pa/dpa/L. Schulze

For years, many citizens had become "latently dissatisfied" with their personal situations. But, Saxony politicians had trivialized their problems and pretended that they did not exist, he said.

"The state must not duck its responsibilities," said Hahn, who is also the sole Left party expert in the federal Bundestag parliament's control commission which oversees Germany's various intelligence services.

Stirring anti-foreigner sentiment

Thomas Oppermann, the leader of the Social Democrat faction in Chancellor Merkel's conservative-led coalition, accused the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the "anti-Islamization movement" Pegida of stirring up anti-migrant sentiment.

Last Thursday's mob intimidaton of refugees arriving in Clausnitz, caught on video, should not be allowed to become a repeat of the closing days of the Weimar Republic, he added, referring to the collapse of democracy before Hitler's Nazi regime seized power in 1933.

The political focus on Saxony precedes a batch of three regional elections on March 13, in eastern Saxony state's neighbor, Saxony-Anhalt, and two southwestern German states, Rhineland Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg.

ipj/rc (dpa, AFP, Phoenix)