Germany’s conservative interior ministers have released their much-vaunted “Berlin Declaration,” which included plans for a partial ban on full-face veils in public. But rules on dual citizenship will remain the same.
Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has come out in favor of a ban on full-face veils in certain areas of public life, making a partial concession to his state-level colleagues in the Christian Democratic Union.
De Maiziere presented the “Berlin Declaration” on Friday morning alongside other conservative interior ministers following a meeting in Berlin on Thursday night to hash out the final details of the plan.
“We unanimously reject the burqa,” de Maiziere told public TV network ZDF on Friday morning. “It does not fit in our open country.” He added that CDU interior ministers have pledged to draw up legislation that would force people to show their faces where “it is necessary for living together in our society.”
According to de Maiziere, these situations included while driving a car, visiting public authorities, in school and universities, working in public service and in courts. He added that the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the CDU’s coalition partner in the federal government and some states, would agree with much of the Berlin Declaration.
The CDU interior ministers met on Thursday to finalize their declaration.
‘Ignoble summer theater’
The commonly used phrase “burqa ban” is something of a misnomer in a German context: The burqa, a loose cloak where the eyes are also covered with a mesh, common in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is virtually unknown – though the niqab, where the eyes are visible, is occasionally seen.
The new debate about full-face veils was triggered after de Maiziere announced new security measures last week in the wake of three violent attacks that took place in Germany – all carried out by men not wearing a full-face veil.
The opposition Green Party dismissed the CDU’s proposal as part of an “ignoble summer theater” around the new security measures.
Irene Mihalic, the Greens’ domestic policy spokeswoman, told news agency AFP that the CDU should come up with some “serious domestic policies” instead of making “sensationalized demands.”
Other plans – restricting dual citizenship, more police
Two CDU interior ministers (Frank Henkel of Berlin and Lorenz Caffier of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – both in the middle of election campaigns) have also been calling for the complete abolition of dual citizenship.
This met with considerable opposition among all the other major political parties in Germany, who argued that it would hinder rather than aid integration. As a result, the declaration included a compromise which would see dual citizenship withdrawn from anyone considered a public danger. The ministers also agreed to commission a review on the effect of dual citizenship on integration, which would report by 2019.
The Berlin Declaration also contains a plan to employ another 15,000 police officers across the country, at both federal and state level, an increase in the number of security cameras in public spaces, and an expansion of the police’s surveillance powers.