The Democracy Promotion Act, with which the German government wants to take action against extremism with the help of civil society, has now been debated in the German Parliament for the first time. During the debate, it became clear that not all parties forming the government are satisfied with the bill.
The law was drafted by the Departments of Family and Home Affairs, with the first led by Green Party Minister Lisa Paus and the Home Secretary by Social Democrat Nancy Faeser. The liberal FDP party is now calling for changes to the draft law, as they believe that organizations whose agenda is questionable would be given financial support. MENA Research Center has already reported on this: Among other things, an organization is to be funded whose employees and programs investigate criticism of anti-Muslim actions too one-sidedly, while ignoring radical and extremist tendencies within the Islamic associations in Germany. “What can be funded under the law must be defined more clearly and restrictively than before,” said the FDP’s domestic policy spokeswoman, Lisa Teuteberg.
According to the draft, supra-regional structures that advise on dealing with “any form of extremism and group-related enmity and the associated discrimination” are to be strengthened. There is currently no legal basis to secure this in the long term. Projects “in the field of democracy promotion, diversity design, extremism prevention and political education” are explicitly mentioned.
The FDP is of the opinion that the “shaping of social diversity” is a “vague and highly problematic concept” whose responsibility should not lie with the state. It is not the task of the state to fight legitimate and constitutional opinions about the promotion of corresponding NGOs and to pillory citizens for rejecting gender. The free constitutional state respects the diversity of people by protecting dignity and freedom. “It just doesn’t claim to shape society according to the government’s ideas. In a free and democratic basic order, shaping diversity is neither the task of the government nor of the so-called NGOs that it supports.”
In addition, the liberals are critical of the fact that there is no explicit extremism clause in the law. “Being against other anti-democrats does not make you a democrat yourself,” said MP Teuteberg. The rather vague formulation that the law serves to “maintain the free democratic basic order” and recipients of grants must respect and promote the goals of the Basic Law. Here the FDP demands a specification. It must be ensured that only those actors who respect and actively promote the goals, procedures and institutions of the Basic Law can be involved in funded projects.
A democracy promotion law had already been agreed in the grand coalition between the then family minister Franziska Giffey (SPD) and interior minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), but failed due to the lack of an extremism clause due to the veto of Angela Merkel’s party.
The Social Democrats cannot understand the demands of the Liberals. “To be honest, the general suspicion that has been raised again and again against all those who defend our local democracy, often under the most difficult conditions, makes me stunned,” the SPD parliamentary group heard. “In view of the current attacks on our democracy from the far right, this is downright unrealistic.” With such a clause, a carrier would have to “screen virtually all of its employees, that is not feasible and would interfere with personal rights,” said the spokeswoman responsible for domestic policy.
The Greens, who are also part of the government and control the Ministry of Family Affairs, use arguments similar to those of the SPD and do not understand the criticism of the Liberals. “Our constitution is geared towards a plural society – it is the task of everyone, including the state, to shape plurality and thus diversity. This is also a contribution to the implementation of the democratic principle of equality before the law.”
At the end of last year, FDP chairman and Finance Minister Christian Lindner also expressed his concerns about the Democracy Promotion Act. As head of the ministry that manages and controls the state budget, the minister said: “The Federal Ministry of Finance approves the draft law in the knowledge that the parliamentary groups of the German Bundestag will make the necessary changes in the parliamentary process. Particular attention needs to be paid to specifying the conditions for funding during parliamentary deliberations.”
The first indication that at least parts of the federal government would not send a clear signal against extremist and radicalizing tendencies in their politics was the announcement by the interior minister that she would dissolve an advisory council of experts in her office that dealt with the problem of political Islamism. It had also become known that the responsible ministries would support NGOs that do not clearly differentiate themselves from the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.
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