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Federal Government's Integration Commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dr Sylvie Nantcha at the press conference after the integration conference in March/Photo: Screenshot/ARD

Chancellor Merkel chairs special committee against racism in Germany

A high-level special committee set up by the German government on right-wing extremism and racism has begun work.

The committee, chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is expected to recommend to the federal parliament concrete measures to effectively fight right-wing extremism, racism, anti-Semitism and other phenomena of group-related discrimination in Germany.

“The Cabinet Committee to Combat Right-Wing Extremism and Racism has started its important work today,” the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Integration, Migration and Refugees, Annette Widmann-Mauz, announced on Wednesday (20 May) after the body’s inaugural sitting in Berlin.

“We are raising the issues to the highest political level,” she added. “Why is that so important? Racism erodes the foundation of our democracy. It is a major cause of hatred and violence against people of different origins.”

Reacting to the development on Wednesday, The African Network of Germany (TANG) said, “We are pleased to announce that the Cabinet Committee against Right-Wing Extremism and Racism has started work today. This makes the fight against right-wing extremism and racism a top priority”.

“We very much welcome the fact that the Cabinet Committee will take into account the perspective of those affected and that representatives of migrant organisations will be heard by the Committee,” TANG, a network of more than 700 African organisations and individual members in Germany, added. “TANG is always ready to make a contribution.”

Chancellor Merkel had announced the formation of the committee in March after meeting representatives of migrant organisations at this year’s national integration conference.

Migrant organisations had in an open letter called for the formation of the committee following the racist killings of 19 February in Hanau when a 43-year-old German man gunned down nine people with a migration background at shisha bars in Hanau.

Speaking at a press conference after the integration conference on 2 March, Merkel said the decision to set up the new committee was based on the letter from the migrant associations and pledged that it would advance the fight against right-wing extremism and racism in the country.

The chancellor took up the issue of racism at the occasion in a way that hadn’t been done at such a high level of government before, when she said, “Everyone in Germany must feel safe and accepted in their dignity,” expressing an understanding for the situation of people with a migration history. She described the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia as of “deepest concern” to her government.

“Our society has a problem: racism. Racism in many forms,” Dr Sylvie Nantcha, chairman of TANG, who sat beside Chancellor Merkel, had said at the press conference on 2 March in Berlin. Nantcha expressed the delight of the migrant organisations about the swift decision of the federal cabinet to institute a cabinet committee.

READ ALSO Chancellor Merkel kicks off serious fight against racism in Germany

Chancellor Merkel chairs the cabinet committee and Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is the deputy chairman. Other members of the committee are the Federal Minister of the Interior, the Foreign Minister, the Federal Minister of Justice, the Minister of Defence, the Federal Minister for Family Affairs, the Federal Minister of Education, the Head of the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Integration Commissioner, the Minister of Culture and the Government Spokesman.

The Cabinet Committee, which is expected to sit until the end of the current parliamentary term, is expected to propose a first catalogue of concrete measures against racism by autumn, Widmann-Mauz said. “The fight against racism and right-wing extremism is a task for all of us – it affects schools, the workplace, our everyday life, as well as state authorities or politics,” she added.

Femi Awoniyi

More information (in German) about the inaugural meeting of the Committee at: https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/bkin-de/aktuelles/rechtsextremismus-1754250

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