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