Next Sunday, there are elections to the state Parliament in Schleswig-Holstein, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU is battling to maintain power in the northern German state.
In the final stages of the election campaign, the CDU has targeted the South Schleswig Electoral League (SSW), which has its constituency in the Danish and Frisian minority in the state. The move is a legitimate one – the SSW is aiming for cooperation with the Greens and Social Democrats, and the CDU has every right to attack the party and its politicians.
But the tone of the campaign is distressing. Instead of attacking the party or its policies, the CDU has acrimoniously warned against a “Danish coalition”. It is deplorable that Germany’s large, governing centre-right party has now embarked on a scare campaign, not against a party, but a nationality.
Unfortunately, the negative rhetoric doesn’t stop here. The local CDU has repeatedly attacked minority rights for being exempt from the electoral threshold, as well as the subsidies to Danish schools that are part of the 1955 Bonn Declaration that also provides special protection for the German minority in Denmark’s Southern Jutland.
German media and politicians justifiably rebuked Denmark when the previous Danish government decided to give in to demands from the Danish People’s Party to close the gates at the Danish-German border.
German critics were right. The move ran contrary to the spirit of the common Danish-German interpretation of the border area as an international model as to how national minorities can both maintain their identities and distinctive cultural character, as well as being valued and equal citizens in another country.
It is now the turn of Merkel’s own party, whose sad campaign - not against the SSW but rather ‘The Dane’ - who should take a look in the mirror and consider whether its methods are truly compatible with the spirit of good neighbourliness.
Hopefully we will never see a Danish party run its campaign against ‘Germans’ in Southern Jutland. Were that to happen, the reactions would be strident in their condemnation. Such should be Merkel’s reaction to her own party.
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Translated by Julian Isherwood