On Monday, 20th of September, everyone interested was welcome to hear more about the positions of the Fulda constituency candidates for the German federal election on September 26th. The discussion took place on site campus of Fulda University of Applied Sciences and was broadcasted via live stream. Prof. Dr. Claudia Wiesner moderated the discussion which was organised by Maria Keller and Stefan Rascher. On the podium, Nuha Sharif-Ali (Left), Gianina Zimmermann (Greens), Mario Klotzsche (who replaced Jürgen Lenders, FDP), Birgit Kömpel (SPD), Dagmar Heil (VOLT) and Michael Brand (CDU) debated numerous topics ranging from human rights and foreign policy to digitalisation and housing shortages.
University President Prof. Dr. Karim Khakzar welcomed about 50 guests that were present on campus, giving a short speech. He called for better framework conditions and higher funding for universities of applied sciences from both the federal states as well as the federal government. Then the floor was opened for the discussion among the constituency candidates. They presented their positions in several blocks of questions. The subjects covered included: Fulda and the region, social affairs and business, human rights, democracy, education and research. The panellists had a good two hours to express their views on each topic in short statements and to explain their own ideas and solutions. Before the event, everyone interested had been invited to submit questions – which were then included into the discussion – via an online tool or social media. In addition, the audience had the possibility to ask further questions.
One guest asked which actions the panellists were planning against the increasing radicalisation in society and the social division between urban and rural areas. All panellists agreed on democracy and social cohesion to begin with individuals and their attitudes. In addition, numerous initiatives in the city and region of Fulda aim at strengthening democracy. The question of raising the German minimum wage was a topic that was controversely discussed. The cadidates expressed notable differences in their positions. While the representatives of SPD, Greens, Left and Volt advocated for a fixed minimum wage and a rise to € 12 or € 13, the representatives of the CDU and FDP argued for a regulation of wages based on collective bargaining. Migration and refugee policy were also discussed intensively. Regarding the latter, Birgit Kömpel (SPD) emphasised that she would welcome Fulda to become a safe haven, and she was going to campaign for the admission of a certain contingent of refugees. The establishment of municipalities as safe havens was also supported by Gianina Zimmermann (Greens), who at the same time called for an immigration law. Mario Klotzsche (FDP) emphasised the need for an EU-wide consensus and the strengthening of legal migration. Similarly, Dagmar Heil (VOLT) pointed out the importance of a European approach and the necessary reform of the Dublin Agreement, as well as the shortage of skilled workers and the positive effects of immigration in this respect. Nuha Sharif-Ali (Left) demanded not to wait for a European solution and make a local decision, and she claimed the need to fight the causes of migration. Michael Brand (CDU) described the difficulties of fighting these causes and advocated the establishment of protection zones under UN control in the countries of origin.
"This discussion round illustrates a core of what democracy is and should be – an open, free and fair debate," said Prof. Dr. Claudia Wiesner. The discussion event was part of the “Debating Democracy in Europe” series of her Jean Monnet Chair. It was also one of the first events organised by the recently established Fulda Centre for Transnational Governance directed by Prof. Wiesner and linked to the Centre for Intercultural and European Studies (CINTEUS). The aim of the Centre of Governance is to promote the exchange between academia and practice via discussion events, lectures and workshops in which international guests and practitioners are involved. In addition, students are regularly given the opportunity to participate in Model United Nations simulations.