Nov 132015


Germany’s restrictive bioethics legislation in general, and its very tight rules on embryology and fertilisation in particular, present a puzzle for political science. Early on, the country has enacted liberal rules in other moral policy domains, most notably the abortion law of 1975 (Richardt, 2003: 113). The full range of prenatal diagnosis is available to German women, and the 1995 amendment has de facto legalised late abortions of otherwise viable babies with genetic or other defects right up to the moment of birth (Hashiloni-Dolev, 2007: 85) Yet, paradoxically, Germany’s 1990 Embryo Protection Act (EPA, 1990) gives absolute protection to fertilised eggs (zygotes)1 before implantation in the womb and so remains “one of the strictest laws on human embryology and fertilization in Europe” (Richardt, 2003: 112).

As usual, Germany is a strange place. A partial explanation is in my recent article (open access): Strange bedfellows: the Bundestag’s free vote on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) reveals how Germany’s restrictive bioethics legislation is shaped by a Christian Democratic/New Left issue-coalition | Research & Politics


Nov 112015

I got some flak for my piece on the Pegida movement, which I wrote for the Monkey Cage, but it was mostly surprisingly polite (my favourite one was “Professor of Fairies”. That one will definitively go on my new calling cards). Most of the commenters suggested that I was trying to brownwash Pegida when I suggested that the movement is radicalising, and that there are links to the Extreme Right. Well, here is another one.

dresden 1938 photo

Photo by nemodoteles

Last Monday was the 77th anniversary of the nation-wide November pogroms directed against Jewish citizens, business, schools, hospitals, synagogues, and private homes that preluded the holocaust. While the day itself enjoys no special legal protection, it is widely seen as an occasion for quiet introspection and public remembrance. In this context, many had appealed to the Pegida organisers to cancel their usual Monday night rally.

The demonstration went ahead nonetheless, including the usual rituals. It was capped by a speech by Tatjana Festerling, a former member of the AfD. Festerling channeled the spirit of the day by demanding an end to “Nazi paranoia” and the “cult of guilt”. “Cult of guilt” (Schuldkult) is a phrase that was coined in the early 1990s. It is a highly loaded term that is used almost exclusively by the NPD and other right-wing extremist groups whenever the crimes of the Nazis are mentioned. That Festerling would use that word, on that day, and that the crowds would cheer, is significant.

Nov 082015

On Friday, a day after the great refugee compromise between CDU, CSU, SPD, and the minister presidents was announced, Home Affairs minister Thomas de Maiziere created a medium-sized stir by presenting plans that would reduce the level of protection granted to refugees from Syria. None such measure had been agreed the day before. By Saturday, the matter was apparently settled: The Kanzleramt declared that this was all some misunderstanding, and that the (non-)debate was over. Now, on Sunday evening, the FAZ newspaper is reporting support for de Maiziere’s non-plan frm the CSU and some leading lights in Merkel’s CDU including Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel’s key ally. Cue crunch time in Berlin, time to settle some very old scores etc – or just another string of misunderstandings?


Nov 072015

The (conservative) union of grammar school teachers in the east German state of Sachsen-Anhalt has appealed to their members to discourage “girls from the age of 12” from “casual sexual encounters with certainly attractive Muslim men” (page 2). In the same editorial, the association’s president and his deputy voice concerns about “an immigrant invasion”, hint that many of the new arrivals are “young, strong, and often Muslims”, and observe that it is only natural that “young, often uneducated men” want, well, sex. Preferably with East German grammar school girls, it would seem.

Obviously, you have to be a leading member of a “Philologenverband” to be casually xenophobic and misogynistic in a single short statement (and who let all those foreign words sneak in from the Eastern Med?). But for anyone studying racism and ethnic conflict, it sounds awfully familiar. More interesting perhaps is the level of public backlash that has been building up since the story broke yesterday (see link below).

Nov 062015

Altmetrics loves my recent article on the strange phenomenon of bioethics legislation in Germany. Now these measures may be questionable and biased, but I’m happy nonetheless. Time for you to read it, too? It’s short, sweet, and open access.

More generally, Altmetric has tracked 4,453,342 articles across all journals so far. Compared to these this article has done well and is in the 80th percentile: it’s in the top 25% of all articles ever tracked by Altmetric.

Source: Article details

Nov 012015

Markus Pretzell, UKIP Fan, AfD supremo in NRW and newly minted sweetheart of the newly minted party leader, has a bright idea. In a public speech last week, he suggested to deter refugees at the German border by all means necessary, including the use of firearms. He has now repeated that statement in an interview with a major news agency. Here is the link.

Oct 272015

There is no doubt that Bavaria is struggling to accommodate the large numbers of refugees crossing the Austrian-German border every day. Bavaria’s infrastructure is already stretched, and, more importantly, the lack of co-ordination with the Austrians, the other German state governments, and the German federal government is nothing but baffling. There can also be no doubt that faced with the rise of the AfD and Pegida, Horst Seehofer, Minister President of Bavaria head of the CSU, feels the need to occupy and protect the political space to the right of the CDU.

In a recent interview, Seehofer has now attacked Austria and issued Merkel yet another ultimatum: If there is no policy change by Sunday, he will …

Build a fence at the border? Leave the federation? Take the issue to the FCC? We don’t know, because he doesn’t say, presumably because he doesn’t know.

Oct 252015

cologne photoOn the coattails of the Pegida anniversary, here is another far-right jubilee: A year on, self-declared hooligans have gathered once more for a “Hooligans against Salafists” (HoGeSa – those guys clearly love their acronyms) rally in Cologne. The two events could not have been more different. While Pegida is a largely regional weekly fixture that seems to feed on local networks, HoGeSa was supposed to be a national gathering in a very hostile environment. While Pegida claims (or claimed) to be a citizens’ movement that ruled out any connections with neo nazis, the HoGeSa organisers boast their uncivic credentials (click the link below to see what I mean).

And while Pegida seems to be on the rebound, counter-marchers ountnumbered a thousand hooligans by a factor of at least ten. Just as Dresden has become a focus for right-wing mobilisation since 1990, Cologne is very good at left-wing counter-mobilisation. The use of water canons against left-wingers made some international headlines, but that is good sport in Germany. Incidentally, there were no Salafists to be seen.

The larger issue, however, is that right-wingers of all shades are back on the street, trying to build networks. In that sense (and I think only in that sense), it’s like the 1990s all over again.

Oct 222015

This week’s Pegida-style AfD march in Erfurt was a bit underwhelming, but Björn Höcke had a much bigger stage when he appeared in a popular talk show. It was probably the first time that a national audience was exposed to the more radical streams within the AfD. It was also the first time that Frauke Petry, the new leader, semi-publicly criticised Höcke (in an email she sent to all party members) and asked (ordered?) the man whom her predecessor wanted to remove from the party to take down his rhetoric a few notches. Höcke’s patriotic platform (whose support was instrumental for Petry’s election) has now launched a counter attack. Time for another putsch?