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Karin Prien (Christian Democratic Union): “It is not enough to ban or demonize the positions of the AfD”

Karin Prien (Christian Democratic Union): “It is not enough to ban or demonize the positions of the AfD”

KArin Prien has been the Education Minister of the state of Schleswig-Holstein since June 2017. The 58-year-old has been Vice-Chairman of the federal Christian Democratic Union party since January 2022.

world: Ms. Breen, a few days apart – How do you evaluate the duel that took place on the WELT TV channel between the CDU candidate in the Thuringian state elections, Mario Voigt, and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) candidate Björn Höcke?

Karen Breen: Mario Voigt bravely took a huge risk in an extraordinary political situation in Thuringia, and I think he did it really well. Voigt helped confront Hockey's fascism in content and demystify him as a whiner. It was now clear to the people of Thuringia that there was a better choice for the position of Prime Minister Mario Voigt.

Karen Breen

Source: Photo Alliance / German Press Agency / Markus Brandt

world: If you look at the reactions to this TV duel, both camps still feel certain in the end. The AfD believes Hockey was great, and the federation pays tribute to Voigt. When you take off your party glasses, what stays on your mind?

Brian: The question was how to get out of this difficult siege situation in Thuringia. On the one hand, there is the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has lost support recently but is still the strongest party in opinion polls. On the other hand, a tired Prime Minister of the left (Bodo Ramelow, editor), which for many people from the middle of society is unelectable and comes from a party that is currently dismantling itself. In this case, it was important to show voters that, yes, there is a bourgeois alternative. This is exactly what Mario Voigt achieved.

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Mario Voigt (CDU, left);  Björn Höcke (AfD)

world: Should the other top candidates in the Union, and perhaps also the Prime Minister, face a potential duel with the AfD candidate before the state elections?

Brian: Each prominent candidate must decide this for himself. Personally, I would have a really hard time putting myself on stage with these guys.

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world: What has the CDU generally learned from this duel about how to deal with the AfD?

Brian: It is right to deal with the content of the AfD's positions. It is not enough to ban or demonize them. I can only call on other democratic parties to finally fight this fight. You can see, especially in East Germany, that the traffic light parties have not been quite successful in their previous tactics and are increasingly marginalized there.

Comment by Ulf Boschardt

World Editor-in-Chief Dr. Ulf Boschardt 01

world: In the three eastern German states where elections will be held this year, the AfD and the Sahra-Wagenknecht coalition together received nearly 50 percent. If you include the left, it's more than 50 percent. Forming a majority is likely to be difficult across the board. what should be done?

Brian: We have to constantly show people that we have better offers and that we provide solutions for the federal state in question. No coalition discussions, rely on your own strengths. Be as strong as you can and then see after the election what is possible given the result. Moreover, our decision not to align with the left remains valid. And you don't work with a nationalist, fascist, far-right party like the AfD anyway. Under any circumstances.

world: Is Wagenknecht's BSW a potential partner for the CDU?

Brian: I can't give a final rating for that yet. I find BSW's position on the conflict in Ukraine and NATO to be very problematic. They are certainly not partners when it comes to these issues. Ultimately, Mario Voigt and the state CDU will have to decide whether this might be different in Thuringia state politics.

BSW Country Director in interview

President of the Thuringia Regional Association of BSW, Stephen Schutz

Wagenknecht party in Thuringia

world: The CDU is currently repositioning itself nationally. In May it wants to adopt a new basic programme. What point would you like to focus on in particular in order to become more attractive to voters in the East?

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Brian: A separate chapter on the East would certainly not be the right approach 35 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. East, west, north and south, it is important that our country does not lose its economic connectivity. It is about securing our prosperity in transition, our threatened freedom, our internal and external security, and effective concepts on immigration. This is important for everyone, as well as for the residents of East Germany.

world: If you look at the platform themes to be discussed in the run-up to the party conference – the renaissance of nuclear power, pioneering culture – this looks a lot like West Germany in the 1980s, doesn't it?

Brian: I do not think so. I believe it is a very good time to re-evaluate the peaceful use of nuclear energy at a time when climate protection must play an important role and when high energy prices threaten our prosperity. We are not having a retrospective discussion about nuclear energy. Germany now imports energy from abroad, including nuclear energy. We say that we should not hastily abandon the option of using next-generation nuclear power plants in Germany.

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Solar field and wind turbines during summer sunrise

world: The debate about the dominant German culture is already outdated…

Brian: on the contrary. We discuss this in the context of social cohesion, one of the most important current social and political issues. We understand that leading culture means the cultural minimum that enables us to live together in peace and tolerance in a diverse society. It is not about exclusion, but about successful cooperation.

world: The leadership of the Union – Friedrich Merz, Carsten Linnemann, and you, let us add, Hendrik Fust and Markus Söder of the Christian Social Union – all come from West Germany. what is the reason?

Brian: Well, I forgot Michael Kretschmer, my deputy colleague. He will also run again for the party congress.

world: Prime Minister of Saxony Kretschmer often stands sideways in the stable. coincidence?

Brian: This applies to his assessment of the conflict in Ukraine, and a popular party like the CDU must bear this in mind. Otherwise, Michael Kretschmer is a valued colleague who always reflects his federal state's point of view to us. This is infinitely valuable.

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Rainer Haseloff from Magdeburg also plays a very important role in our consultations, as he has great experience and is a very important advisor. Mario Voigt and Yvonne Maguas from Saxony played a key role in shaping the core programme. In this regard, my perception is fundamentally different from yours.

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Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, Friedrich Merz

world: Speaking of personnel: who will be the candidate for chancellor?

Brian: We are fortunate that in Friedrich Merz we have a strong party leader and parliamentary group leader who is ideally suited to the job. If he wants to, he will.

world: Bernhard Vogel – former Prime Minister of Thuringia, among others – considers heads of government such as Daniel Günther and Hendrik Fust to be the most suitable candidates for the position of Chancellor. You, too?

Brian: And with our prime ministers in the United States, we actually have personalities who have what it takes to become a chancellor. But so far I have not heard that any of them are running for president.

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world: Back to the TV duel for a moment. After this broadcast, it also became clear that politicians are increasingly using social media channels to convey their point of view to the people. Does that worry you, especially since you are the Minister of Education who always criticizes the issue?

Brian: At this point, I agree with Angela Merkel, politics begins with recognizing reality. Social media has become an essential arena for the battle of political opinion, which unfortunately is currently being used more professionally by extremist parties. In this regard, democratic parties still have to catch up.

Unfortunately, the importance of print media has declined significantly in recent years. I deeply regret that. But if people increasingly look to other channels, we should use them too.