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German Attitudes On Border Control In Wake Of Attacks


Across Europe, anti-immigration sentiment is growing. Far right groups have been emboldened following the November terrorist attacks in Paris parents. The public was also angered by reports that asylum-seekers in Germany assaulted dozens of women on New Year's Eve. Germany has been one of the most generous countries, welcoming more than 1 million immigrants. But there's growing resistance to Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal immigration policies. I was in Berlin back in September, reporting on the migrant crisis. And when I was there, I interviewed Jens Spahn. He's a member of the conservative CDU party and the country's deputy finance minister. We thought this would be a good moment to check back in with Mr. Spahn. He joins me now on the line from Berlin. Nice to talk with you again.

DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER JENS SPAHN: Hello, good to hear you again.

MARTIN: When we spoke three months ago, you told me that Germany needed to differentiate between refugees who were fleeing places like Syria and Iraq, people who Germany would welcome, and migrants who were simply looking for a better way of life. Do you think Germany should continue to welcome in refugees from Syria and the region at the same rate that you have been?

SPAHN: Well, actually, the most important discussion we have in these days is, is there a European solution? Are we able to have a secure EU border, east border especially, where we decide at the border and so-called hotspots who is to be let in and who not? And the second question is, are we able to distribute the refugees all over 28 countries in the European Union? So far, it's only Sweden, Germany, a bit of Denmark and Austria. And the other countries are almost taking no one.

MARTIN: So that means - implicit in that is - what I'm hearing you say is Germany is taking too many and that the burden needs to be shared. How do you go about doing that? How do you make that case to other European nations?

SPAHN: Well, Chancellor Merkel is speaking and dealing and negotiating with other European countries. But especially in the East European countries, we have a kind of sentiment against it. They are asking, why should we take Muslim people to our Christian societies? And I'm not too sure if we will find a solution. But we really do work hard on it to get one because otherwise, Schengen, the so-called Schengen Area, which means no borders within the European Union, that could be ended.

MARTIN: You think that's a possibility, that the Schengen Agreement could dissolve, that the border controls in Europe would be re-implemented?

SPAHN: Well, Sweden and Denmark started already again with controls at their borders. But yes, that's the risk we have at the moment, that the Schengen Agreement is about to be jeopardized. Germany can't go on like this.

MARTIN: Do you have security concerns? I mean, there are these voices saying, look what happened in Cologne. There are people who came into Germany as asylum-seekers, and now they are perpetrating violence. Do you share those concerns?

SPAHN: My biggest concern is actually about integration of the people. So we already have from past decades parallel societies kind of who do not integrate with their own religions, their own language. And they're coming from countries where the equality of men and women, where the rights of minorities are not respected. And of course, after having - having been grown up there, they bring this with them to Germany. And if you want to integrate people from a totally different culture, you need time. You need resources. And that's, at the moment, our problem, that so many people are coming in so short time.

MARTIN: Are you concerned about the rise of anti-Muslim attacks and demonstrations in Germany? Are migrant communities safe in Germany?

SPAHN: Well, I think they are safe because we have a big majority in Germany who don't agree with any kind of hate. But it is a growing - it's kind of fear because you see people with daughters, with women in their family just ask, can I let my daughter out to the street, especially in big cities? What happens to her after what I have seen in Cologne? So it's more fear than hate at the moment. But that might change. And that shows we really do need a solution. Otherwise, the mood in Germany might collapse.

MARTIN: Jens Spahn is a member of the German Parliament. And he's the country's deputy finance minister. He spoke to us from Berlin. Thank you so much for taking the time.

SPAHN: Yes, it was a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.