Germany’s Ambassador to Canada has caused outrage after comparing the increasingly popular Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party with neo-Nazis, while admitting most migrants aren’t refugees.
Ambassador Werner Wnendt was speaking at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, British Columbia last Thursday where he talked at length about the challenges of the migrant crisis.
At the start of the talk the ambassador readily admitted that most of the migrants who had come to Europe since last year were not Syrians or refugees: “we have seen last year in 2015, at the end of the year, 1.1 million people arriving in Germany. Four hundred and thirty thousand of them came from Syria, the other 700-something thousand, they came from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and African countries.”
Amb. Wnendt also implied most migrants who were coming to Germany probably weren’t legitimate refugees: “So are these people refugees? I know that we generally refer to them as refugees, but they are not in the legal, in the proper, also the political sense under international law,” he told the crowd in the packed lecture hall.
Speaking about the majority of migrants who are not refugees he said, “they come for economic opportunities because the situation in their home countries is very difficult. But of course in the proper sense they are not refugees.”
Opposition to the migrant crisis and the German government’s handling of it has given parties like the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) huge gains in recent local elections. The ambassador held nothing back when it came to the topic, claiming that the AfD and similar parties critical of mass migration across Europe had somewhere between 12-30 per cent of support from the general public, and therefore must be “taken seriously”.
But he went on so compare the AfD in particular with neo Nazism, saying, “we have for the first time in the post war history of modern Germany a right wing political party called the Alternative for Germany that is about to, well, be elected into the federal parliament. We had neo-Nazi parties in the past that made it into some provincial parliaments but never ever has a right wing party actually elected into the federal parliament.”
The comments have drawn outrage from Beatrix von Storch, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) who recently left the centrist, Europhile group in the European Parliament to sit alongside Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party. She is also the Vice leader of the AfD, and told Breitbart London exclusively: “If a political party is of the right side of the current government coalition led by Angela Merkel, it is still in the very centre of the political landscape.
“Alternative für Deutschland is an euro-realistic party. We fight for the introduction of national referenda as means of deciding on important issues. AfD stays for a liberal economic policy, civil rights, for direct democracy and sovereign Member States. We reject restrictions on free trade through economic sanctions against Russia, and we oppose the creation of new blocks as a consequence of TTIP. AfD clearly rejects the acceptance of Turkey as an EU Member State. AfD is now represented in 8 regional parliaments and the EU-Parliament.
“Civil servants should abstain from making statements with the intention to harm a political party. I will make a complaint against the ambassador at the foreign affairs ministry.”
Having compared the AfD with former neo-Nazis, the ambassador told Breitbart London his thoughts on other groups like the anti-Islamisation PEGIDA movement, which he dismissed as being confined just one German city (Dresden). Amb. Wnendt said he didn’t consider PEGIDA a movement and asserted that the fears of Islamisation in Europe are “far removed from reality.”
He derided supporters of PEGIDA saying that, “these people that very often have problems with where they are in our societies,” implying that they were from the lower class of German society – or in American parlance, are “low information voters”.
Raheem Kassam contributed to this report