Cablegate: Combating Right-Wing Extremism in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: An

DE RUEHAG #0004/01 0431341
R 121341Z FEB 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. A) 07 LEIPZIG 018
B. B) 07 LEIPZIG 017
C. C) 06 HAMBURG 55
D. D) 06 HAMBURG 54
E. E) 06 HAMBURG 46

HAMBURG 00000004 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: All of the political parties in the
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (M-V) Parliament have worked toward a
common goal since the right-wing extremist National Democratic
Party's (NPD) entry into that parliament in September 2006: to
isolate the NPD and to implement programs to combat and prevent
right-wing extremist attitudes. Regional demographics and
economic and political trends seem to be working against these
containment efforts. As an extreme measure, the M-V Parliament
passed legislation on October 18, 2007 requesting that the state
government work together with other state governments to clear
any legal hurdles to an outright ban of the NPD. At the same
time, the NPD is trying to soften its image ahead of the 2009
municipal elections by offering non-political activities and
volunteering in communities. This cable is part two in a
two-part series from ConGens Leipzig and Hamburg (Ref B). END

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Parliamentary Strategies to Combat the NPD
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. (U) Immediately following the M-V state election in
September 2006, the Christian Democrats (CDU), the Social
Democrats (SPD), the Left Party/PDS, and the Free Democratic
Party (FDP) worked toward the common goal of making
parliamentary life difficult for the NPD. For one, they decided
to respond jointly to all NPD proposals and speeches, an
approach taken by the Saxon parliament when the NPD entered that
parliament. The M-V parliament voted to reorganize public
financing regulations so that the two smallest parties, FDP and
NPD, received less funding. Public financing was originally
designed to the advantage of smaller parliamentary caucuses in
order to enable them to fund basic office functions. Funding
for the smaller caucuses has now been reduced by about 30
percent so that instead of receiving approximately 700,000 euros
per year, the NPD caucus only receives less than 500,000 euros.
The parliament also revised committee chair assignment
procedures according to party strength to exclude the NPD. In
addition, members of parliament voted to ban secret voting in
order to avoid any voting defections from the mainstream parties
as had occurred in the Saxon parliament. Finally, in order to
prevent the NPD caucus from employing right-wing extremists with
a criminal history, all parties are now required to produce
proof of clean criminal records upon hiring. Within days, the
NPD went before the M-V State Constitutional Court, claiming
that the new parliamentary procedures were unconstitutional.
The court, however, upheld the new procedures.

3. (U) The M-V political parties have invoked various rules in
the parliamentary procedure to block NPD speeches when possible.
The parliament now uses all procedural and other rules at its
disposal to disadvantage the NPD. The Office of the M-V
Parliament President has employed new personnel to focus on NPD
parliamentarians' speeches, which, they believe, attempt to
conceal anti-democratic sentiments or breeches in parliamentary
procedure. The parties also lifted NPD parliamentarian
Koester's immunity so he could be tried for a violent act
committed at a 2004 demonstration. Further, Director of the M-V
Parliament Armin Tebben explained that his office has worked
hard to prevent the NPD from using the parliament's Schwerin
castle for public events. With agreement from the other
parties, the President's office has closed the castle to the
public during specific holidays, increased security, and
cancelled the parliament's open house.

NPD: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

4. (SBU) At the same time, the NPD has reoriented its
grassroots strategy to make political inroads within the
communities. The party's approach has included a softening of
its image and an attempt to gain trust within communities by
offering activities such as folk dancing and trailblazing
courses, as well as assistance with filling out complex
unemployment compensation forms. In a meeting with ConGen
representatives on July 16, 2007, Interior Minister Lorenz
Caffier (CDU) noted that the NPD is focusing on the mid-term
goal of winning local posts in the 2009 municipal elections.
The NPD leadership encourages party members to volunteer in
their communities and join non-political clubs and
organizations. The NPD caucus is following a populist strategy
in parliament, making proposals to improve healthcare, ban
genetically-modified corn, and secure retirement at 65. Another
strategy of the NPD is to focus on attracting more women to the

HAMBURG 00000004 002.2 OF 003

party. Tebben told Pol/Econ Officer August 23, 2007 that
currently the NPD has very few women, but that it appears that
the party is trying to change this image as well. According to
Sociologist Michaela Koettig only about 20 percent of NPD voters
are women.

5. (U) Notably, at the same time NPD caucus members are
continuing to attend subculture events throughout Germany.
Tebben called this tactic of publicly supporting more mainstream
and populist proposals while in closed events advancing National
Socialist ideas, the NPD's "Doppelstrategie" (a
"double-strategy"). Pol/Econ's contacts believe that the
potential for NPD gains in the municipal elections is high,
especially in the eastern part of the state, where an
unemployment rate in some areas is as high as 35 percent and the
emigration of many educated women have left behind a frustrated
and uneducated young male population. Tebben also highlighted
that the NPD aims to make the right-wing extremist movement into
a youth movement. Already, NPD members of parliament tend to be
younger than the average. Despite having the highest economic
growth rate in Germany in the first half of 2007, M-V also has
the highest unemployment rate at 15.1 percent for the entire
state. Between 2000 and 2006, M-V's population decreased by 5.3
percent. Of the 4,467 young people between 20 and 25 who left
M-V in 2006, 52 percent were young women. Notably, in 2006
there were about eight percent more men than women among 21 to
30 year olds.

National NPD Ban a Solution?

6. (U) Aside from the parliamentary measures to isolate the NPD
mentioned above, on October 18, 2007 the M-V Parliament, with
full support of the SPD/CDU coalition and the Left/PDS, passed
legislation requesting that the state government work together
with other state governments to clear any legal hurdles to an
outright ban of the NPD. In 2003 the Federal Constitutional
Court ruled that an NPD ban is unconstitutional due to the
infiltration of Office for the Protection of the Constitution
(OPC) informers into the party's leadership. The court decided
that it could not ban a party whose policies may have been
shaped in part by government agents. Interior Minister Caffier
has set up a working group to gather information on NPD
anti-democratic activities and to establish the legal
prerequisites for a ban. On November 14, 2007 the parliament
passed a constitutional amendment declaring that all public acts
must serve the peace and discouraging extremism and racism in
the community. On November 15, 2007 Caffier announced new
regulations designed to make it more difficult for right- and
left-wing extremist groups to use public buildings.

7. (U) The October 26-28, 2007 SPD national party convention in
Hamburg also took up the issue of right-wing extremism and
delegates sent a strong signal that the NPD should be banned.
On October 31, 2007 interior ministers from the SPD-led
governments of Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen, Berlin,
Sachsen-Anhalt, and Rheinland-Pfalz met in Hannover to
coordinate their efforts to ban the NPD. CDU interior
ministers, except Caffier, however, rejected any pursuit of an
NPD ban reasoning that if the effort failed again, this would
only strengthen the NPD.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Programs that Counter the NPD's Influence
--------------------------------------------- -------------

8. (U) The national and state governments have recognized the
need to combat the NPD and right-wing extremist influence in
general through various programs aimed at the youth. The
national government provides three sources of funding to combat
right-extremism in M-V. The National Ministry for Family,
Seniors, Women, and Youth finances local initiatives through its
program "Youth for Diversity, Democracy, and Tolerance." The
Labor Ministry supports two programs: Xenos (also funded through
EU Social Funds) aims to promote tolerance between young German
and immigrant adults as they enter the labor market, and "Social
City" encourages communities to work together to improve living
conditions and increase opportunity for all members. At the
state level, significant efforts have also been made to combat
and prevent right-wing extremist attitudes since the NPD entered
the parliament. Most prominently, the M-V Ministry for Social
Affairs and Health opened five "Regional Centers for Democratic
Culture" in September in areas where right-wing extremism is
prevalent, replacing previous national CIVITAS funding. The
centers work with local actors to channel available funding from
various sources and develop programming.

9. (U) The state government has also worked to consolidate
political education activities at the Ministry of Education,

HAMBURG 00000004 003.2 OF 003

Science and Culture to facilitate links between schools,
teachers, and political education institutions. In July 2007,
the Ministry organized a trip for 25 teachers to Yad Vashem
Holocaust Memorial in Israel to study German-Israeli relations
and the Holocaust. Starting with the 2007/08 school year, the
Ministry also implemented new political education initiatives in
schools, including placing a "Coordinator for Democracy
Education" at each of M-V's four school "administrative units"
and providing 120,000 Euros in funding for class trips to
memorial sites from the Nazi and Communist German dictatorships.
In addition, the Interior Ministry financed 25 anti-right-wing
extremism projects in the amount of 164,000 Euros through the
"State Office for Criminal Prevention" in 2007 and is
participating in a nationwide survey of youth researching the
origins of right-extremist attitudes. Moreover, the Justice
Ministry announced on August 1, 2007 that it would work together
with Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt in the Bundesrat to seek
tougher sentences for hate crimes nationwide, replacing
probation sentences with jail time when possible. The Ministry
is also developing a project to send public prosecutors and
judges to schools to discuss extremism and democracy.

10. (U) State projects at various ministries to counter
right-wing extremism are currently loosely coordinated through
an "Interministerial Working Group," which began work in spring
2007. The efficiency of this coordination method has yet to be
proven and our contacts voiced moderate to strong criticism,
saying the funds and initiatives were too spread out to be


11. (SBU) Despite the NPD's high profile antics, such as
demonstratively remaining seated during a minute of silence in
honor of the victims of the Nazi regime on January 30, the M-V
parliament has rather successfully minimized the NPD's
effectiveness during its sessions. Tebben nevertheless
identified M-V as the NPD's center of power, noting that they
use their parliamentary offices as a national base. State
Commissioner for the STASI Records Joern Mothes identified the
growth of right-wing extremism in M-V as the fault of the
established political parties. He stated that they are not
providing incentives to young people to become politically
active and are having problems attracting a new generation of
politicians. Mothes asserted that the old East German system
punished self-initiative and now communities are unprepared to
deal with the continuing legacy. While many of the preventative
programs are well-funded and have dedicated leadership, all of
the members of the "Interministerial Working Group" with whom
ConGen Hamburg spoke were doubtful that their work could be well
coordinated. With its aging population, high unemployment, and
exodus of educated youth, M-V will continue to face the growing
challenge of the NPD and right-wing extremism. END COMMENT.

12. (U) The message has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin
and ConGen Leipzig.

© Scoop Media

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