Germany appoints first ever anti-racism commissioner

Germany's traffic-light coalition has created a new office to combat racism and promote diversity in politics.

Germany appoints first ever anti-racism commissioner
SPD Member of Parliament Reem Alabali-Radovan after her appointment as Federal Government Commissioner for Anti-Racism. picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

On Wednesday, the cabinet of the German government appointed 31-year-old SPD politician Reem Alabali-Radovan to the newly created office of anti-racism commissioner.

The new post was created by the traffic light coalition government made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP in their coalition agreement.

In her new role, Alabali-Radovan wants to develop a diversity strategy for the federal administration. Her goal is that “the diversity of our society is also reflected in the federal ministries and federal authorities”, she said in Berlin on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Berlin launches task force against anti-Muslim racism on anniversary of Hanau attacks

“Racism is a crime against humanity,” she explained. “For those affected, it is an existential threat, they suffer physically and psychologically.”

The new Commissioner wants to coordinate the federal government’s diverse measures against racism across departments from the federal chancellery and develop a national action plan against racism. She plans to promote new projects for more prevention, educational work and research in order to strengthen civil society throughout Germany in the fight against racism.

Also the Minister of State for Integration, Alabali-Radovan entered the federal parliament for the first time last year. She was previously Integration Commissioner in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

READ ALSO: Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

Commenting on the appointment, the Parliamentary Secretary of the SPD parliamentary group, Katja Mast said: “the fight against racism and discrimination – in all its manifestations – is a top priority for us and is anchored directly in the Chancellor’s Office”. She was sure “that Reem Alabali-Radovan will tackle this task with a clear attitude and the necessary drive”.

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‘Historical failure’: Germany to hike military spending after years of underfunding

The German government on Thursday pledged to boost military spending after defence chiefs laid bare the "extremely limited" resources of Europe's biggest economy's to help pushback against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

'Historical failure': Germany to hike military spending after years of underfunding

Finance Minister Christian Lindner said it was time for a “turning point” in German defence investment, long a target of criticism by Western allies.

“I worry that we have neglected the armed forces so much in the past that it can’t completely fulfil its duties,” he told public television.  

“Falling defence spending no longer fits with the times.”

Former defence minister under Angela Merkel, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, had earlier admitted Berlin was guilty of “historical failure” in not bolstering itself militarily.

She said Germany had forgotten lessons from the past that “negotiation always comes first, but we have to be militarily strong enough to make non-negotiation not an option for the other side”.

“I’m so angry at ourselves for our historical failure. After Georgia, Crimea, and Donbas, we have not prepared anything that would have really
deterred Putin,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, referring to incursions carried out by Russia while Merkel was in power.

Her Twitter outburst came as the chief of the German land army, Alfons Mais, posted on the social network LinkedIn that “the options we can offer to politicians to support (NATO) are extremely limited.”

The Bundeswehr “is more or less bare,” he wrote in the stark admission.

‘Now is the time’

Western allies had “seen it coming and were not in the position to come through with our arguments, to draw the lessons from the annexation of Crimea and to implement them,” the commander said.

“NATO territory is not directly threatened yet, even if our partners in the east feel the constantly growing pressure,” he said.

Mais said it was high time to bolster the army.

“When if not now is the time to… rebuild, otherwise we will not be able to carry out our constitutional mission or our obligations to our allies with any prospect of success,” he said.

Germany’s dark past has nurtured a strong pacifist tradition, and it has often been criticised by partners for not pulling its weight in tackling
crisis hotspots.

Defence officials have over the last years repeatedly sounded the alarm over the army’s equipment woes – a litany of disrepair plaguing fighter planes, tanks, helicopters and ships.

At the end of 2017 all the country’s submarines were in drydock for repairs while for some of the following year none of the air force’s A400M transport planes were airworthy.

‘Count on us’

Russia’s invasion may well force changes in priorities, with the Bundestag’s armed forces commissioner Eva Hoegl saying the army may have to switch from focusing on foreign missions to “domestic and allied (NATO) defence”.

She too admitted the Bundeswehr’s “standing start capability is not what it should be”.

NATO partners will hold a virtual summit Friday to discuss their response to Russia.

Around 550 German soldiers are stationed in Lithuania as part of a NATO mission, with another 350 troop reinforcements already pledged. But Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has said the numbers could be increased.

Asked about the latest criticisms within the army, Lambrecht said Germany’s “allies can count on us 100 percent”.

“I can only advise everyone who carries responsibility to put all their efforts into meeting these challenges right now. That is the order of the day,” she said.

Germany was criticised in the build-up to the invasion for refusing to deliver lethal weapons into the crisis zone, sending instead 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.

Instead, Germany has provided Ukraine with over two billion euros ($2.2 billion) in financial support over the last eight years.

In January, the head of the German navy, Kay-Achim Schoenbach, stepped down following a remark made at an Indian think-tank that the Russian President Vladimir Putin “is to be respected”.

SEE ALSO: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs