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Solidarity Activity Report

In the 2009 elections to the Bundestag I stood as a candidate for direct election in Aachen and was placed sixth on the North Rhine-Westphalia party list. I was voted in as a Member of the Bundestag for the first time. As announced in my offer to stand for election in 2009, the main focus of my work was European policy, and I became a member of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union and of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

 

Committee on the Affairs of the European Union

All the major crisis-related decisions on European policy that have been taken in recent years passed through the Bundestag and were discussed in the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union for instance the ESM, the Fiscal Compact and the barbaric austerity programmes imposed upon Greece and Portugal. I am proud of the fact that I helped the Left Party to recognise the true nature of these programmes from the very beginning, consistently to reject this kind of "rescue" policy and each time to table motions with our own concrete alternatives. This includes a European strategy on depriving the financial markets of their power by means of rigorous regulation and scaling down the size of the banking sector, the democratisation of the ECB, including the possibility of levering out attacks by the financial markets by means of direct loans, the introduction of a Europe-wide capital levy and wealth tax, as well as socio-ecological reconstruction programmes for those countries that have been forced into recession.

I would like to highlight the action we filed with the Federal Constitutional Court against the Fiscal Compact and the European "rescue fund", the ESM, which I proposed in the Left Party parliamentary group in the Bundestag. The Fiscal Compact and the ESM are the most important milestones on the way to a radicalisation of the EU's neoliberal character since the start of the banking and financial crisis in 2007/08. The ruling elites in the EU and especially the Federal Government are using the crisis, which is based on a capitalist crisis of over-accumulation, to press ahead with this course of action. Whilst banks across Europe were rescued with the help of public funds, the crisis that is being relabelled a "sovereign debt crisis" is to be overcome by means of budgetary cuts and deregulation. This is jeopardising what remains of the welfare state in Germany and Europe. Pressure from the financial markets is being used to continue the assault on democratic standards that were already believed to have been safeguarded. "Programme countries" like Greece and Portugal are being used as guinea pigs to test this road to an authoritarian and austere EU before it is imposed across Europe.

Based on a division of labour agreed with my colleagues in the EU Committee Diether Dehm, Thomas Nord and Alexander Ulrich, I took over the area of justice and home affairs in the EU. Far from the public eye, repressive governmental structures that do not meet national democratic standards are being created in the context of numerous working groups or completely informally at EU level. I have tabled numerous interpellations to the Federal Government in an attempt to shed light on an area to which little attention is being paid. Again and again over the last three years I have managed to bring a few matters to light and in some cases to scandalise them, including exposing cross-border undercover investigators, the spectacular case of Mark Kennedy, paramilitary police cooperation and wide-ranging monitoring projects funded by the European Commission such as INDECT. Recent insights regarding the Federal Government's plans to deploy drones were also a by-product of a minor interpellation tabled by my office, the focus of which was the EU's strategy in regard to drones. As I understand it, parliamentary opposition also has an investigative function, which I have, in my opinion, amply fulfilled.

A further area of activity in the EU Committee are accession negotiations with Iceland and Turkey, for which I am responsible on behalf of my parliamentary group in the Bundestag. During numerous trips to Turkey I repeatedly drew attention to the dramatic human rights situation, mass arrests and restrictions on the freedom of opinion. It was on my initiative that eight imprisoned members of parliament were included in the Bundestag's "Parliamentarians Protect Parliamentarians" programme. I visited the KCK proceedings three times and was in court with Günter Wallraff during the trial against Doğan Akhanlı. I was able to prevent numerous left-wing activists from various European countries being deported to Turkey following an intervention via the Federal Foreign Office. I am a staunch supporter of a peaceful and political solution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and have made that clear again and again at various levels.

 

Council of Europe

A further key aspect of my work is the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, of whose Parliamentary Assembly I am a member. The Parliament of the Council of Europe is composed of delegations from the national parliaments. Germany is represented by 18 members; the Left Party has two seats and two deputy members. The Council of Europe is an international organisation that is older than the EU and operates independently of it. It also has more members: Russia and Turkey are, for example, members of the Council of Europe. It focuses on three key aspects: the observance of human rights (including social rights), democracy and the rule of law.

My basic strategic approach in the Council of Europe is based on the conviction that the neoliberal regime that is currently in charge of dealing with the crisis in the EU is coming into conflict with basic European conventions such as the European Human Rights Convention. I am attempting to initiate measures within the Council of Europe to counteract this course of action. My efforts are not without success: In my capacity as rapporteur on the threat the austerity policy poses to democracy and social rights I managed to have a resolution containing a leftist analysis of the crisis adopted by a clear majority. Together with comrades from the Unified Left Group I initiated several other resolutions, for example on the persecution of the Sinti and Roma in Europe, on what is known as "drug checking" and on labour law. I also took part in election observer missions in Moldavia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Turkey and Ukraine on behalf of the Council of Europe.

In addition I try to use my activities within the Council of Europe to combat the repression of political activists. During each of my foreign trips I visit prisons or meet with left-wing, social or trade union activists. Two prison visits, one to meet Nevin Berktaş in Turkey and one to visit Natalia Sokolova in Kazakhstan, contributed to their subsequent release. I also try to use these trips abroad to promote networking among the European left. It was on my initiative that the Icelandic finance minister was invited to present Iceland's alternative approach to dealing with the crisis to the Parliament of the Council of Europe.

 

Extraparliamentary protests

I engage in many extraparlimentary activities in the fight against the austerity and increasingly authoritarian policy pursued in order to overcome the crisis. I am convinced that change will not be brought about by our parliamentary work alone, but that we also need pressure from the street. That is why it is very important to me to support extraparlimentary initiatives and social movements and to get involved in them too despite being a member of the Bundestag, I see myself as part of these movements. That is why, to name but a few examples, I took part in the blockupy protests in Frankfurt am Main in May and October as well as in major international demonstrations in Paris and Athens. As I see it, the parliamentary left must regard itself as part of a broader social left-wing movement that puts to effective use its special position in the parliaments and the additional tools that are available to parliamentarians. I regard parliament not only as a platform but also an important field of activity and arena for debate, although that alone is not enough to bring about societal change.

 

Spotlight on Greece

Greece is one focus of my work. The wrong austerity policy that has been imposed under the Federal Government's leadership has had dramatic consequences in that country. During several trips to Greece I extended our network with the left-wing Syriza party and with activists in social movements. I raised the issue of the catastrophic social situation in Greece both for the Greek population and for immigrants at dozens of events in Germany. Greece is on the brink of a double humanitarian tragedy. The direct social consequences of the austerity policy are dire for the population. At the same time the Dublin II system that was pushed through by the EU and Germany in particular is exacerbating the already precarious social situation of immigrants in Greece. Although they are being detained under degrading conditions, the idea of distributing them across other EU Member States based on a spirit of solidarity has been rejected. Again and again I raised the issue both of the social situation and the barbaric conditions along the Greek-Turkish border river Evros and in the Greek deportation prisons by repeatedly putting questions to the Federal Government in the form of interpellations.

 

Immigration

The immigration policy applied by the EU and its Member States was the subject of numerous interpellations and initiatives in which I criticised both the work of the EU border patrol agency Frontex and Germany's involvement. Time and again refugees have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean or have been shot dead along the Evros. I was able to ascertain that freedom of movement within the EU has long been abandoned as a result of EU-wide control measures and police operations.

 

Mexico

As a member of the German-Mexican Parliamentary Group I support human rights defenders who are in danger. In particular, I have criticised developments in regard to Germany's arms exports to Mexico and security cooperation and I ensured that these issues were put on the agenda. Again and again it has been found that German weapons are being used against the population in Mexico's "war on the drug trade", which has cost tens of thousands of lives since 2006. I have been a critical observer of German arms manufacturers' deals in the war in Mexico and the Federal Government's agreements and have been proactively working against them.

As a member of the Aachen Peace Prize, I nominated this year's prize winner, the Mexican human rights activist Alejandro Cerezo and his organisation Comité Cerezo. I was very pleased that the members of the Aachen Peace Prize supported Mexican activists in this way.

 

Constituency

I do not regard my activities as a member of the Bundestag for the Aachen constituency as lobbyism and giving priority to interests arising in my hometown over matters of relevance to other regions. Nevertheless, I am glad that people from the triborder area get in touch with me, and I do my best to raise attention to and support for their concerns. My office helped to establish the Left Party Centre in Aachen as a contact point for politically interested citizens and to organise regular surgeries on social issues. These have since led to the establishment of an independent and very dedicated Hartz IV Working Group within the county association. Protests against the reactionary Charlemagne Prize are, unfortunately, also a regular item on the political agenda in Aachen. In recent years we have always held an event on the eve of the award ceremony at which we criticise and oppose the propaganda about neoliberal strategies for Europe. My team and I have established a series of events held on around a dozen Sunday mornings that provide an opportunity for in-depth discussions with many interesting speakers. Similarly, I gladly accepted numerous invitations to similar events in other county associations whenever possible.

Regular contacts with emancipatory immigrant organisations, trade unions, social and peace organisations are a very important aspect of my work. In order that people from Aachen and the rest of North Rhine-Westphalia can get an impression of my work and the political side of Berlin, we organised numerous constituency trips with special programmes (e.g. a lobby-critical tour of the government quarter), which some 500 people took part in.

 

Conclusion

Solidarity with left-wing actors and social stakeholders and giving them very practical support against repression all over Europe are an integral part of my day-to-day work. I believe that I have done a good job of supporting the work of the Left Party, not least in Aachen and North Rhine-Westphalia, and I hope to carry on with that work. The Left Party must become a powerful flywheel in Germany and Europe for a social, democratic, peaceful, environmentally-friendly and solidary Europe. I would like to continue working with my team towards that goal in my capacity as a Member of the Bundestag.

 

Contact

To find out more about my work, go to:
www.andrej-hunko.de, facebook.com/andrej.hunko or twitter.com/AndrejHunko

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Tel.: +49 (0)30/227-79133 (Bundestag office) or +49 (0)241/990 68 250 (constituency office in Aachen). Preparations are ongoing to set up a citizens' office in Neuss.

Europäischer Polizeikongress in Berlin als Lobbyistenveranstaltung?

Gespräch mit Andrej Hunko in der "Berliner Runde" #70 des Radia Obskura. Die "Berliner Runde" beschreibt sich als "aktuelles Magazin für subversive Unternehmungen für, gegen und aus Berlin" und ist eine gemeinsame Sendung von Radio Corax (Halle), dem Freien Sender Kombinat (Hamburg) und Pi Radio (Berlin). Download der Sendung als Podcast unter http://cba.fro.at/wp-content/uploads/berlinerrunderadioobskura/5101201302201900BerlinerRundeRadiaObskura70.mp3

Verbrecherjagd in Datenbanken

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Mögliche Gegenstrategien der humanistischen Gesellschaft

Dieser Beitrag wird im Januar 2013 in dem Sammelband »Die neuen Rechten in Europa zwischen Neoliberalismus und Rassismus« in der Reihe »Manuskripte der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung« erscheinen. Wir danken den HerausgeberInnen Peter Bathke und Anke Hoffstadt für die Möglichkeit der Vorveröffentlichung dieser Fassung (Aktualisierter Text des Beitrags vom 31. Mai 2012.)

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Medienberichte über mögliche Zusammenarbeit der Bundeswehr-Reservistengruppe "Marschgruppe Hürtgenwald" mit Rechtsextremisten

Der Bundeswehr-Reservistengruppe "Marschgruppe Hürtgenwald" wird in den Medien vorgeworfen, mehrfach mit Rechtsextremisten zusammengearbeitet zu haben. Ein Mitglied einer neofaschistischen Organisation soll zudem gegenwärtig als Offizier in Afghanisten Dienst tun. DIE LINKE will Klarheit darüber, inwiefern die Vorfälle zutreffen. Kooperationen mit Nazis müssen sowohl für die Bundeswehr als auch ihre Reservistenorganisationen ausgeschlossen sein.

Drucksache 17/11146

Mündliche Frage zur finanziellen Unterstützung von griechischen Abschiebegefängnissen oder anderen Aufnahmeeinrichtungen durch die EU

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"Immer weiter militarisiert."

EU-Auszeichnung mit dem Friedensnobelpreis in der Kritik der Linken

Andrej Hunko: "Immer weiter militarisiert."

Von Peter Kleinert

Der linke Aachener Bundestagsabgeordnete Andrej Hunko, Mitglied des Ausschusses für die Angelegenheiten der Europäischen Union und auch der Parlamentarischen Versammlung des Europarates, kritisiert die Auszeichnung der Europäischen Union mit dem diesjährigen Friedensnobelpreis.

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„Dresden nazifrei“

Heute übergaben für den Verein der Linksfraktion die Abgeordneten Karin Binder, Nicole Gohlke und Andrej Hunko den Spendenscheck  in Höhe von 1.000 Euro an zwei Vertreter des Berliner Koordinationskreises vom Bündniss „Dresden nazifrei“.

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Speech on Iceland crisis - by Steingrímur Sigfússon

Mr SIGFÚSSON (Minister of Economic Affairs of Iceland) – First, thank you for the invitation; it is good to be back. I really enjoyed my work here in the Parliamentary Assembly, not least chairing the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, but I was called back to other duties when the financial crisis hit Iceland hard in autumn 2008. I became Minister of Finance on 1 February 2009 in the midst of the crisis and the social and political turmoil that followed it.

I have built on my experience from that time, dealing with the sovereign debt crisis and the overall economic crisis. I tried to draw some lessons from that with relevance to the topic that is being discussed here today.

What happened in Iceland? Well, we had the traditional overheated economy, which had been growing rapidly for a number of years. The newly privatised banks took advantage of the free regulation to invest and expand their balance sheets all over Europe. They grew to an amazing number – 10 times the size of the Icelandic economy in a matter of a few years. Then they collapsed in the first week of October, following the fall of Lehman Brothers. No doubt they would have had some problems regardless.

What happened? We lost 85% of our financial sector in a matter of a few days. An emergency law was put in place allowing the authorities to move all deposits and assets from the failed banks over to new ones. Capital controls were introduced and, by mid-2009, 93% of the financial sector was gone. Our crisis was at least threefold. We had a banking and financial crisis, we had a currency crisis as the krona devalued by about 50%, and we had a major crisis in the building and contracting business, which had expanded during the bubble and which then came down very hard. Unemployment rose from practically nothing – from 1.5% to more than 9%. The sovereign debt accumulated from about 30% to 80% in one and a half years, and the net debt went from zero to more than 40%. The revenue fall was dramatic as expenditure rose through increased unemployment and higher interest payments on the accumulated debt. The interest payments rose from between 2% and 3% of the budget to 15% in two years. So all of a sudden, we had to take away 15% of the budget to pay the interest. The number of non-performing loans rose from the usual 1% to 2% in the banking sector to around 50%, so about half of all debt was not being repaid in the usual way.

In short, we fell victim to the extreme neoliberal exercise that was carried out in Iceland in the years before the crisis, and which came to a sudden, costly and painful end for the Icelandic population in October 2008. We entered into an International Monetary Fund programme. The economy contracted 6.8% in 2009 and an additional 4% in 2010, making a contraction of around 11% altogether. The deficit rose to about 14% in 2008 and about 10% in 2009. We were therefore dealing with a two-digit figure for sovereign debt.

So, what did we do? What actions did we take? In the middle of 2009, immediately after the elections, we took the first measures, both on the revenue and the expenditure sides. We did not wait, as had been intended. Many thought that we should allow the automatic stabilisers to work and wait for a while until things calmed down, but we did not do so. We immediately went in and took the first measures. That was followed by very tough budgets in 2010, 2011 and 2012. At the same time, the government made a firm commitment to preserve Iceland’s Nordic-style welfare system, and I believe that we have done so. I can honestly say that we have done all in our power to try to take society through this as softly as possible.

On the revenue side, we took extensive measures involving tax increases. We introduced a three-bracket private income tax, which put the burden on medium and high-income groups. We raised capital gains tax and corporate taxes. We introduced a CO2 tax and raised the taxes on alcohol and tobacco. In fact, there were very few things left that we did not raise a tax on in that way. We even introduced a wealth tax on the richest families.

We also took extensive measures on the expenditure side, but we designed them in such a way as to cut two to three times more in general expenditure and investments than in welfare expenditure. I believe that that was the socially right thing to do, and in Iceland’s case at least, it also turned out to be the economically wise thing to do. The fact that we were able to preserve the purchasing power of the lower income groups has definitely helped to carry the economy through.

We chose what we called a mixed approach, in which we acted on the revenue side and the expenditure side, as well as taking quite a lot of side measures to compensate those who were most affected. That was extremely important. To deal with unemployment, we introduced several programmes, not least those that made it feasible for young people to go to school and educate themselves instead of being unemployed. We transferred a lot of money from unemployment benefit to the education system, so instead of paying out unemployment benefits, especially to young people, they took that money with them into the education system. We have succeeded in bringing several thousand people out of unemployment and into school.

Iceland’s co-operation with the IMF was interesting. Iceland was running a rather unorthodox programme. In the light of what I have already said, how did the IMF react to that? We are often asked that question. The fact is that trust was built up as the IMF saw that we were serious about tackling the problems, and it became more at ease with the situation. It decided that it was up to us to design and adapt the programme to suit our needs. We said that we were going to preserve the Nordic welfare system, but that we would take measures to deliver the necessary economic results. The IMF said, “Okay, that’s up to you as long as you deliver.” And we have done so. In the light of the IMF’s past history, it has to be said that it showed a good degree of flexibility as things moved on.

How has it all worked out? We have brought the deficit down from that horrible two-digit figure to about 1.52% this year. We have a slight primary surplus on the budget this year, and we are aiming for a fully balanced budget in 2014. Unemployment has been reduced from around 9% to 6%. The latest figure, for May this year, is 5.6%. Growth is back; the economy grew 3.1% last year and we estimate economic growth of between 2.6% and 3% this year. We completed the IMF programme successfully at the end of August last year. We have already repaid more than 50% of the loans from the IMF, the Nordic countries, Poland and the Faroe Islands much earlier than expected. Iceland is back on the international capital markets. We issued US $1 billion in June 2011 at decent terms, and we repeated that this spring, with and additional US$1 billion with 10 years’ maturity in June this year.

We are not out of the woods yet, however. The debt burden still weighs heavily on households and certain businesses. Unemployment is of course too high by our standards, even though our figures would not amaze some European countries, and a lot of work remains to be done in many areas. The outlook is steadily improving however. What are the main lessons? First, do not wait. Act on the problems right away, otherwise they will just get worse. You only have a certain amount of time and support for doing the most difficult things, and if you do not do them early on, it becomes more and more difficult to carry them through. People get impatient and they want to see results. They are entitled to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we must keep their hope and spirits up.

Secondly, if you have to apply for assistance and to work with international institutions, be it the IMF, the World Bank or the European Union, try to take as much ownership of the programme as possible. It is the key to success to be involved on your own terms. It is all very well to draw up a programme at a desk in Washington or Brussels, but the hard part is to execute it. That can be done only by the authorities at home.

Thirdly, try to preserve the welfare structures and to shelter the low-income groups and the weakest in society. Fourthly, choose the right mixture. In Iceland’s case, it was impossible to solve the problems through austerity alone or by raising taxes alone; we had to do both. It was a delicate matter to choose the right mixture and to include certain activating programmes to support growth and create jobs at the same time.

Fifthly, you must try to explain to the population what you are doing and why you have to do it. Try to get people to understand that what is being done is necessary. If you do not do it now, someone else will have to do it later. There is also a question of responsibility. Do we as a generation shoulder the burden of these events, or do we defer the bill to the future and expect our children to pay it?

Sixthly, a lot has to be done in the financial system. We cannot have a system that constantly privatises the gains and socialises the losses. That is an awful system. Why on earth should we – ordinary people, the taxpayers – pay when financial institutions get into trouble? They see it as perfectly normal to take the gains themselves, paying outrageous bonuses and salaries in the good times, so-called. Many of these practices, such as the short-sighted gains-based bonuses, turned out to be extremely harmful, and in my mind they should be abolished or banned. There is therefore still a lot to do if we do not want a repeat of what has happened in 10, 20, 30 or 50 years.

Anyway, the main lesson of all this is: do not give up. These problems can be tackled. They can be solved, and they must be. There is hope and light at the end of the tunnel.