Meeting with Wiebke Esdar (SPD, member of the German parliament)

2/12/2020 - written by Philipp

TL;DR: We spent two hours with a relaxed and focussed Wiebke who patiently explained to us the works in the German parliament. Icelandic students and teachers joined us halfway through, we switched to English and started comparing Northern and Western European perspectives.

a Jitsi meeting full of people

At the beginning of our conversation, Wiebke told us some basic facts about her personal history and her current work in the German parliament. Then the interview started.

Here is a paraphrased and translated report of the interview.

Our German Group of students asked the following questions:

Does the German parliament neglect certain people?

Maybe some people just miss out on politics. However, it seems that there are
populist politicians who can reach out to those people. We have to think about
our way of communication and how improve it.

Some people are sad because the democratic parties appear to be too similar.
What also makes them upset is lobbying and corruption.

I think that the great coalition of CDU, CSU and SPD forced those parties to
show a lack of contrasts. This is in fact a problem.

However, when politicians turn out to be corrupt, we can always vote for
different ones when the next election happens. But it is a duty of voters to
do sufficient research before they handle the ballot papers.

(hint added by the editor:

What should schools teach to prevent belief in dangerous conspiracy theories?

The most important skill is the ability to check the credibility of sources.
E.g., students should ask themselves if articles show different points of view.

Did the German democracy remain stable so far?

Yes, because we have a great and smart constitution. Especially the separation
of powers is very important in my opinion. But there is a small and loud minority
of people who do not agree to democratic traditions. We should counter them!

How will it be possible to combine climate protection goals and economy?

I have to be honest here: climate is just one out of many important topics
that we have to deal with currently. For example, we do not want coal miners
to drop out of society because they might lose their job. However, we are
ready to support sustainability with the help of higher budgets.

Could the European Union break apart because of a missing feeling of unity?

I am worried indeed that some states like Poland or Hungary might already be
on the anti-european road because their separation of powers has become brittle.
We should be careful to not let them ruin our idea of democracy.

What can be done to counter lobbying?

A lobby register could certainly make our work more transparent. But there are
conservative parties like CDU and CSU who refuse to agree to an idea like that.

In the past, there was a great amount of banks that tried to mess with me.
I never got involved with them.

This is the part where the Icelandic students and teachers joined the meeting.

Iris (a teacher on Iceland) told us about Iceland as democratic republic:

  • Independence was reached in the year 1944.
  • 11 ministers, 3 parties and coalitions are the norm.
  • The current president only has a mainly symbolic role.
  • In 1980 the first woman in the world was elected as a president here.
  • Iceland is not a full member of the EU - but part of the economic area.
  • Populist tendencies do exist, but they are not dominant.

The Icelandic teachers moved on to their own questions now.
Here is what they asked Wiebke:

Is there an outrage against corona politics in Germany?

Yes, there are protests. And even the AfD party in our parliament is speaking
against corona measures. They also get a lot of attention by the media.
Can you observe this on Iceland too?

Iris, Eva and Hella now added a few anecdotes:

No, we don't think so. Maybe because there was a scandal once: Populists talked
very disrespectful of woman and were secretly recorded. They basically get
ignored now because of this incident.

Iris now talked about the Icelandic constitution:

Many people are missing that natual resources should be owned by everyone and
people should be able to have a say which industries should be allowed to enter
and do their business. There was a national referendum to address this topic.
A new crowd-sourced constitution was prepared and close to be accepted but at
the end there were not enough voters to make this change happen.

Eva and Hella tried to return to the interview. They said:

We didn't know that right-wing parties are on the rise in Germany.
It's shocking how the media grants them an open stage.

They asked Wiebke just to be sure...

Do they really rise so well or is it just a small minority?

Yes, they are actually on the rise. It is a serious situation! They became so
huge and got into parliament because of migration politics. They also managed
to present themselves as a voice of the many frustrated beings here in Germany.

Honestly speaking: They do a great job at addressing these people.

Before Wiebke was going to leave, one of the German students
had the chance to ask one last thing. Jan wanted to know:

What can we do to fight racism in our schools?

The most important thing is to explain how the right-wing codes and symbols work.
Students should know how they look like and why they are banned. Also they may
interview former neo-Nazis or spread the word about services that could help
to exit this scene of people.