January 16, 2024 | ZDF

ISD’s Julia Ebner on reports of members of German far-right party participating in ‘secret’ planning of ‘mass deportation’

ISD Senior Resident Research Fellow Julia Ebner spoke to journalist Dunja Hayali on ZDF’s ‘heute Journal‘, one of the leading German news shows, about the reports of a ‘secret’ meeting between leading politicians of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, financially powerful business owners and Identitarian extremists to discuss a plan for the mass deportation of millions of people with migrant backgrounds, including “unassimilated citizens.”

The debate on ‘remigration’ is “essentially about a deeply racist idea propagated by extremist, anti-constitutional organisations. […] I wouldn’t call that a legitimate debate.”

When asked about AfD’s framing as a ‘normal private meeting’ in the city of Potsdam in November 2023, Julia said it was only “normal” in that it wasn’t surprising given the AfD’s history of associating with Identitarian circles. However, it was clearly not a private meeting, she said. “When political representatives and representatives of financially strong companies sit down at a table with extremists, I think it’s more accurate to describe it as a political strategy meeting.”

Julia explained that the term ‘remigration’ is a euphemism that is “part of the Identitarian movement’s attempt to shift the Overton window – the window of socially acceptable discourse – further to the right.” Terms such as “remigration” and “ethnopluralism” are used to camouflage deeply racist and xenophobic policies and ideas, she said. She further added that in addition to tackling the mainstreaming of extremist ideology within AfD and fighting its symptoms, it is important to also “address the root causes of the AfD’s rise in order to prevent ideas that jeopardise human rights, democracy and the German constitution from further spreading in society.”

The AfD is currently at the height of its radicalism and popularity, said Julia, but a ban is likely not the best solution. “It would make sense to look further down the line at whether the most extreme politicians in the party can be banned from exercising their political functions if they behave unconstitutionally or deliberately spread anti-democratic or anti-minority ideas. In the case of Mr [Björn] Höcke, this certainly seems legally possible.”