YTN Berlin: Dealing with Populist and Immigrant-Skeptic Movements in Germany and Europe
On March 25, the Young Transatlantic Network (YTN) of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Berlin hosted an off-the-record discussion on “Dealing with Populist and Immigrant-Skeptic Movements in Germany and Europe” with Sinem Taşkın, Policy Advisor on Migration and Integration, and Timo Lochocki, Transatlantic Fellow, Europe Program, German Marshall Fund (GMF). Jessica Bither, Program Coordinator at GMF’s Berlin Office, moderated the discussion.
Against the backdrop of recent rallies in Germany by PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) that drew international attention as well as recent electoral successes of the new populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), the discussion centered around the questions of whether there are effective ways of dealing with populist and immigrant-skeptic rhetoric in Germany and what lessons could be drawn from the rise of populist parties in other European countries. Key aspects considered during the lively discussion included the need to distinguish between leaders of populist movements and their supporters; the underlying motivations of supporters and followers of populist sentiments which often blend a diffuse set of immigrant-sceptic sentiment, a general distrust towards established elites, and disappointment with politics in general; the fact that the rise and popularity may sometimes be influenced by external factors (such as developments in Greece or ISIS); and the difficulties and options of arguing with emotions and the mixing together of debate between asylum and migration.