Angela Merkel's party vows purge of German clan crime in election manifesto

CDU/CSU bloc promises 'zero tolerance' on criminal underworld

A German police officer and his sniffing dog enter the yard of a villa following a police raid in the clan milieu, in Leverkusen, Germany, June 8, 2021.  REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
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The party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to take on the country's crime clans in its manifesto for September's general election.

The CDU/CSU bloc will pitch a “zero tolerance strategy” to voters as it seeks to stay in power when Ms Merkel steps aside after 16 years in office.

It wants to add to pressure on the criminal underworld by carrying out raids and deporting clan leaders who do not have German citizenship.

Children born into gangland families should be given help to prevent them falling into a life of crime, the manifesto says.

“We are declaring war on the creation of parallel criminal societies with their own rules and their own jurisdiction,” say the CDU and CSU.

“Criminal clans must be systematically harassed. They cannot have a minute’s peace.”

With Ms Merkel bowing out, the CDU/CSU is putting forward Armin Laschet as its candidate to be the next chancellor.

Mr Laschet is the regional leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, a state where some of Germany’s crime clans are based.

Two weeks ago, a suspected senior figure in the notorious Al Zein gang was arrested by state police during raids in the city of Leverkusen.

About 30 properties were raided from which police seized at least $400,000 in cash, a $37,000 watch and a collection of jewellery and luxury bags.

epa09290456 Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party chairman Armin Laschet gestures during a press conference with Christian Social Union (CSU) and Bavaria's State Premier Markus Soeder (unseen) after the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Berlin, Germany, 21 June 2021.  EPA/FILIP SINGER/ POOL
CDU leader Armin Laschet hopes to succeed Angela Merkel after September's election. EPA 

'Policy of a thousand pinpricks'

North Rhine-Westphalia previously brought in its own “zero tolerance policy” on what it says is an underworld of more than 100 crime families, many with ties to Lebanon or Turkey.

The policy was criticised in a report by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which said such language wrongly characterised migrant areas as dangerous.

But the same language has been taken on by the CDU/CSU in a manifesto which calls for a “policy of a thousand pinpricks” to bring down the clans.

Children in clan families are often inhibited in their development

Investigators should work together across government agencies and even across international borders to take on the clans, the parties say.

The manifesto says many clan members have German nationality but those who do not should be subject to deportation procedures.

It calls for anyone who wants to escape the criminal lifestyle to be given help in doing so, including women and children.

Such people should be aided by social services and sheltered by witness protection programmes, the parties say.

“Children in clan families are often inhibited in their development because of isolation and the bad examples set by criminal relatives,” the manifesto says.

“That amounts to a threat to child welfare and requires protective measures.”

Police officers leave a gaming hall following a raid in the clan milieu in Leverkusen, Germany, June 8, 2021.  REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
Police officers leave a gaming hall following a raid on the clan underworld in Leverkusen, Germany. Reuters

No EU place for Turkey

Germany’s clans have been linked to a series of spectacular crimes including a reputed €1 billion ($1.19bn) jewel heist in 2019.

Clan members include descendants of the millions of foreign workers, including from Turkey, who flocked to help rebuild Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The CDU/CSU manifesto said that Germany and Turkey remained closely connected because of the links between their people.

But amid tension between Ankara and the West, the parties said they would not support Turkish accession to the EU.

“Turkey is moving further away from fulfilling the EU’s accession criteria such as democracy, the rule of law and respecting human rights,” they said.

The manifesto pitches the CDU and CSU as the parties of stability and economic success after 16 years in power under Ms Merkel.

"We want to make our country faster, more efficient, more digital," Mr Laschet said.

The party was at a low ebb when Mr Laschet emerged as the winner from a bruising internal struggle over who should lead the bloc into the election.

But the party's polling numbers have improved in recent weeks after a steep decline in Covid cases and a key state election victory this month.