Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser presents a 13-point package of measures against right-wing extremism. Not everything is new.

Nancy Faeser at the federal press conference

Federal Interior Minister Faeser in Berlin on Tuesday Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa

SEDAN taz | For weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protect democracy, and now Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is once again taking a stand against right-wing extremism. On Tuesday she presented a new package of countermeasures in Berlin.

“We want to use all the instruments of the rule of law to protect our democracy,” Faeser explained. For the minister, the fact that so many people are currently protesting against hatred is “an encouragement and a mandate at the same time.” They want to continue approaching the far-right scene with “prevention and toughness” and treat it as if it were organized crime. “Each violation must be punished consistently,” says Faeser. Right-wing extremism remains the biggest threat to democracy.

In March 2022, shortly after taking office, Faeser presented an initial package of measures against right-wing extremism, comprising ten points: from tightening gun laws to more political education. The new package now has 13 points: some reinforce what is known, others are new. “We're going one step further,” says Faeser.

Tighter entry and exit bans will be imposed on right-wing extremists to make it more difficult for them to establish international contacts. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution should also share its information more intensively with the authorities to raise their awareness of far-right networks. It is also necessary to better contain the sector's financial flows. Faeser believes that the obstacle for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which until now has only been able to act in cases where there is a connection with incitement and violence, is too high. Instead, with a change in the law, a “risk potential” should be sufficient in the future. The secret service should also be able to more easily discover where right-wing extremists have checking accounts.

Early detection unit against disinformation

Faeser also supports the call to better protect the Federal Constitutional Court from possible authoritarian influences by amending the Basic Law; This is already being debated by the traffic light factions in the Bundestag. And at the Ministry of the Interior an “early detection unit” is being created to detect foreign disinformation campaigns, an evolution of the AG Hybrid that previously worked there. However, Faeser left open the size of the unit and the exact procedure.

Other points, however, were already in Faeser's first plan. The Minister of the Interior insists once again that bans against far-right groups will be “continuously examined”, as was recently the case with Artgemeinschaft and Hammerskins. Faeser also refers again to the legal reform of April 1, which aims to more quickly remove enemies of the Constitution from public service. Or the contact point founded at the beginning of the year to protect local politicians.

Political education will also be strengthened, for example in the areas of anti-Semitism or sports. In addition, the central point for reporting criminal content on the Internet at the BKA will be further expanded. According to the police authority, since its creation in June 2021, more than 19,300 complaints have been filed there, of which approximately 83 percent had criminal relevance. 77 percent were handed over to a locally responsible police authority and in 11 percent of the cases the perpetrators were abroad.

Other projects that have now been resubmitted were stuck at the traffic light. Faeser insisted on finally tightening gun laws, for which he introduced a bill in early 2023. “We can't wait for more crimes.” The FDP, however, rejects the reform and maintains that it is not necessary to tighten the rules, but simply to apply them better. The president of the BKA, Holger Münch, agreed with Faeser on Tuesday: fewer and fewer weapons among extremists means more security.

Political crimes at their highest point

Faeser also called for the Democracy Promotion Law to finally be passed. Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) is currently pushing for this. The cabinet has already reached an agreement, but the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag is blocking it. She calls for the reintroduction of an extremism clause with which projects would have to sign their allegiance to the Constitution, something they consider a widespread suspicion. Liberals also warn that the law should not be used to promote initiatives that exercise legitimate political criticism.

Faeser's other points also raise practical problems: imposing and monitoring entry and exit bans on right-wing extremists is likely to be a mammoth legal and practical task. The trial against Austrian identitarian Martin Sellner, who has recently been promoting his “emigration plan” in Potsdam and elsewhere, is already dragging on. The city of Potsdam had initiated an entry ban, but Sellner immediately took advantage of it for public relations purposes with a trip to Passau. There they checked him at the border, but finally they let him pass. Sellner was also announced for a far-right “Ash Wednesday” on Wednesday in Ronneburg, near Gera. It was unclear whether he actually planned to travel.

Faeser was also open to the creation of a ministerial committee to combat right-wing extremism, as already existed in the previous government and as Family Minister Paus had recently requested. The president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, also stressed that right-wing extremists must be “unmasked” and their space disputed. Regarding the AfD, he explained that lately the borders between the middle class of society and the far right have been “blurred.” The party itself ignores its own decisions of incompatibility with far-right groups. Haldenwang warned that the far-right potential, which recently stood at 28,800, has continued to grow in recent times. BKA President Münch also warned that last year the number of political crimes reached its peak; Exact figures will be presented soon.