Conservatives ignored immigration issues, says Thierse

Wolfgang Thierse has claimed Germany’s conservative parties are in trouble after ignoring integration problems for too long.The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) official told Austrian newspaper Die Presse today (Mon): “The SPD doesn’t have a particular problem regarding immigration topics – in contrast to the conservative parties since they closed their eyes for too long a time.”Thierse, the vice president of the German Bundestag, is regarded as one of the SPD’s most influential left-wingers. Political analysts have suggested the party must sharpen its profile as far as immigration issues are concerned to avoid being taken over by the Greens in popularity.New polls suggest that the Greens have the chance to overtake the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the SPD to become the second-strongest party behind the Christian-Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) in the general elections. The SPD and the Greens had formed a coalition on federal level for 11 years before the CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel teamed up with the FPD following last year’s general vote.Germany has been engaged in a heated debate over alleged immigration failures. Thilo Sarrazin, the SPD’s former senator of finance in Berlin, caused outcry by linking the intelligence quotient of ethnic groups to their genetic structures in his bestseller “Deutschland schafft sich ab”, which could be translated along the lines of “Germany is digging her own grave”. Sarrazin stepped down as Bundesbank board member to evade disciplinary procedures which could have led to his dismissal.Thierse accused Sarrazin of “pretending to have invented the discussion about integration.”The Bundestag’s vice president told Die Presse the SPD must discuss all immigration aspects in a “radically earnest” way. Thierse, however, also appealed that his party had to ensure that the intelligence of foreign ethnic groups was not automatically considered as lower than that of Germans as suggested by Sarrazin.The SPD is considering expelling Sarrazin, whose book is one of the most sold publications in Germany so far this year, over his disputed statements.Horst Seehofer, Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) Minister President recently intensified the discussion of foreigners in Germany by claiming that the country’s current immigration policy has generally failed. Seehofer also called for Germany to “wave its multicultural dreams goodbye”.Speaking to Die Presse, Thierse explained: “We (the SPD) try to take the reasonable way beyond dreaming of a multicultural society in which everything is accepted.”He added: “Germany is a country of immigration. We must finally stop telling lies. Conservative political forces even denied the reality of immigration when more than 10 million foreigners were already living here.”Asked why far-right parties fail to succeed in Germany despite the rising criticism of the way of life of many foreigners who settled in the country, the Social Democrat said, referring to Germany’s role in World War Two: “German citizens are being kept from backing rightist populists thanks to the country’s ‘collective historical memory’.”Austria is, meanwhile, considered as a hotbed for far-right tendencies. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) looks back to a series of strong election performances while its centrist political rivals struggle.Analysts have stressed that the FPÖ would attract many protest voters who only support them to show their disagreement with decisions being made by the ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) such as tax increases.Austria is nevertheless expected to have serious difficulties shedding its reputation of being a rather xenophobic country since the FPÖ has done well in many important elections ever since late right-winger Jörg Haider took over as party leader in 1986.His successor Heinz-Christian Strache angered NGOs and political rivals by vehemently defending Sarrazin. The FPÖ boss claimed in September Sarrazin would “deserve political asylum” in Austria.Addressing those who criticised the controversial German over his theories, Strache said: “The ‘Sarrazin hunters’ don’t face reality. They have no idea what’s going on and just dream of an ideal world.”Strache claimed the FPÖ was also attacked for simply pointing out the occurrence of some bad developments.The FPÖ did well in the provincial elections of Burgenland and Styria earlier this year before shocking the SPÖ and ÖVP by garnering 25.8 per cent in the Vienna city parliament ballot last month, up by almost 11 per cent compared to the 2005 vote.FPÖ general secretary Herbert Kickl said recently that his party planned to cooperate with Pro NRW, a right-wing movement in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.