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Bundestag candidates discussed foreign minority policy at FUEN BundesTalks

"Minorities abroad are of inestimable value to Germany"

Consensus is often sought in vain in politics, but on this issue, for once, everyone was in agreement: there must be no reduction in funding for German minorities abroad. Their function as bridge builders in the European context is too important, emphasized all Bundestag candidates who sat on the virtual podium at the FUEN BundesTalks on August 23.

The second edition of the debate organised by the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) in the run-up to the Bundestag elections focused on the parties' views on the role and future of German minorities abroad. How should they be supported in the future? What role should they play in the context of European integration? And how can the German minorities living abroad gain more presence in federal politics? These and other questions were addressed by six politicians in an online discussion. Eckhard Pols (CDU), Dietmar Nietan (SPD), Manuel Sarrazin (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Peter Heidt (FDP), Simone Barrientos (Die Linke) and Sybilla Nitsch (SSW) accepted the invitation.

Moderator Vladimir Ham, Vice President of FUEN and himself a member of the German minority in Croatia, did not beat around the bush and wanted to know right at the beginning: Do you want to change the budget for Germans living abroad – or even increase it? Currently, the German government supports them with 24 million euros a year, but the allocations from the Foreign Affairs Committee are shrinking from year to year. All candidates emphasized how important this funding is against the backdrop of international understanding and announced a continuation of, if not commitment to an increase in funding, should they come to government with their party.

"Events all over the world show that it is stabilizing factors such as German minorities in the respective countries that need to be promoted," said Dietmar Nietan (SPD), although he pointed out that dealing with the pandemic and flood damage would make a budget increase in the next budget seem ambitious. FDP candidate Peter Heidt hopes above all for a better defense of funds for the German minorities at the head of the Foreign Office, where he saw major problems in the current legislature.

"Everything that promotes democracy and understanding for one another must also be promoted," emphasized Simone Barrientos (Die Linke), pointing out that at the same time the majority society there must benefit.

Sybilla Nitsch (SSW), whose party of the Danish and Frisian minorities in Schleswig-Holstein is running in the Bundestag elections for the first time in over 60 years and with which a minority party could enter the Bundestag again for the first time, was able to contribute a very special perspective on the topic. "Minority policy is always also peace policy – we see that in our everyday life in the German-Danish borderland," explained Nitsch. "It is important to make the work more permanent. Minority work has to get out of project status and become institutionally anchored to be successful."

Another focus of the roundtable was the topic of electoral law, which makes it difficult for German citizens living abroad to participate in elections. The problem: due to the system of first and second votes, it is necessary to be linked to a constituency in Germany. Eligibility to vote must be applied for in a complicated way from the local election official – and is by no means always granted. Thus, Germany loses many thousands of voters from the ranks of the German minorities, especially from today's Poland. How could this hurdle be removed? "Those who are entitled to vote must have easy access to the election - this could be made possible, for example, by setting up a foreign constituency," suggested Manuel Sarrazin (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) - an idea that was also met with approval by the other participants. 

Finally, the question of how the German minorities could expand their presence on the Berlin stage was discussed. The guests are not convinced of the creation of another body, such as a subcommittee in the Interior Committee – there are simply too many of them with too little influence. "We already have the position of minority representative at the Ministry of the Interior. This position should be strengthened, for example by locating it in the Chancellor's Office", suggested Eckhard Pols (CDU). After all, minorities abroad are "of inestimable value to Germany". Manuel Sarrazin suggested a cross-party discussion group to sensitize the political spectrum to the issue.

You can watch the video of the FUEN BundesTalks at any time on the FUEN YouTube channel.

Background: German minorities live in 25 countries, for the most part far from the current territory of the Federal Republic. About 1.2 million people still belong today to the German autochthonous national minorities in Europe. They not only contribute to the cultural diversity in Europe, but are also important bridge builders between Germany and its European and Central Asian partner countries. Nevertheless, the autochthonous national minorities hardly play a role in the public perception in Germany. They also rarely make it onto the agenda in the election programs of the parties and the reporting in the run-up to the Bundestag elections. For this reason, the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) organises the FUEN BundesTalks on various minority policy topics.