On Friday, CDU leader Friedrich Merz speaks at an event in Berlin Neukölln – and also about his “Pascha” statement two weeks ago on a talk show. However, the explosive word itself does not come from his lips again.

The CDU federal chairman Friedrich Merz has emphasized the importance of immigrants for the German labor market. At an election campaign event of the Berlin state association of his party, he said on Friday evening in front of a good 450 listeners in the Gropiusstadt community center in the Neukölln district: “Germany needs immigration.” In view of the foreseeable shortage of workers, it must be a matter of “regulated, controlled immigration”, which must be accompanied by a “warmest welcome culture”. At the same time, integration problems must be discussed openly.

With statements on the ZDF show “Markus Lanz”, Merz was accused of stirring up prejudice against migrants. He had described a certain type of male immigrant children with erratic behavior as “little pashas”. The reason for this was the discussion about nationwide firecracker riots on New Year’s Eve. Gropiusstadt was also affected by such incidents.

The CDU chairman complained in Neukölln that his statements in the television program had been subject to “manipulation through excerpts” in the reporting afterwards. What was neglected was how often and intensively he emphasized the integration successes of migrants. “Those who have been coming to us for decades” should contribute to social cohesion. Where there are problems, they must be named. He will not stop doing this loud and clear. On the evening of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Merz also pledged to grant people who needed protection refuge in Germany: “Many refugees around the world need us.”

The SPD member of the Bundestag for Neukölln, Hakan Demir, had accused Merz on Twitter of coming to the district to “operate populism at the expense of the people who live here”. The governing mayor and SPD top candidate, Franziska Giffey, had also tweeted criticism of the Neukölln event with Merz: It was an attempt to instrumentalize the New Year’s Eve riots for the election campaign. During the event, there was an attempt to disrupt the hall, which the security forces immediately stopped.

Merz accused the SPD-led Berlin Senate under the former Neukölln district mayor and federal family minister Giffey of miserably governing the city. It is unique in Germany that the capital was unable to organize a proper election. The CDU leader asked what SPD icon Willy Brandt, once the city’s mayor and later Chancellor, would say about the situation in Berlin. Merz added: “I like being here. But I want to be in a city that works.”

Friedrich Merz came to Berlin to support the election campaign of Kai Wegner, the CDU’s top candidate for the rescheduled parliamentary elections on February 12, and Falko Liecke, the Neukölln district councilor and Berlin CDU vice-chairman. In Berlin, the election to the state and district parliaments will be repeated because irregularities occurred in September 2021 due to organizational deficiencies.

The health and social expert Liecke gained nationwide fame with a book publication entitled “Brennpunkt Deutschland”. His associated thesis is: “Poverty, violence, neglect – Neukölln is just the beginning.” The CDU politician announced in a campaign brochure for his party: “Organized (clan) crime is a problem in Berlin: drug trafficking, robbery, the most serious offences. I have a lot of good ideas to put a stop to these people. Clear edge, clear message.” Liecke also complains: “If the garbage is left on the streets, big luxury cars are parked in the second row and our police or the regulatory office are no longer shown any respect, even on small occasions, a lot goes really wrong.”

Liecke’s district is characterized by a high proportion of foreigners and social upheaval. Gropiusstadt is a large Neukölln housing estate with a problem status. Before Merz’s performance, a delegation from the party Die Linke was stationed at the venue under police observation and protested against “racism” and “right-wing agitation”.