“An important signal”

Coalition negotiations enter final round. The representative of the Catholic Churches in Berlin, Prelate Karl Justen, on the results of the working groups so far and the Church's expectations for a future grand coalition.

CBA: Bishops and associations have always insisted on freedom of choice in family policy: parents should decide for themselves. Against this background, how do you assess the agreements reached so far??

Karl Justen: The planned flexibilization of parental allowance and parental leave will give families more room to maneuver. We welcome that. We are happy if the childcare allowance remains in place. However, we would like to see it expanded even further. Furthermore, we hope that the CDU/CSU will not lose sight of its election promise to increase the child allowance and child benefits.

CBA: The CDU/CSU and SPD want to increase pensions for mothers of children born before 1992. However, like other services, this is still subject to financial conditions.

Justen: We know that budgets are finite. But the appreciation of the lifetime achievement of these mothers is an important signal for the appreciation of the family in our society. Women's associations, in particular, are rightly pressing for the elimination of the unequal treatment that has existed up to now.

CBA: A particular point of contention, especially for the SPD, is the question of adoption rights for same-sex partnerships.

Justen: The decisive criterion here is the best interests of the child. And we ame that children basically grow up best with father and mother.

CBA: Union and SPD want to fundamentally change the prostitution law. How do you assess this?

Justen: The reform is urgently needed. Church women's and social organizations had warned at the time that the regulations would primarily benefit johns and brothel operators and conceal the exploitation and power relationships that go hand in hand with prostitution. In addition to the protection of women, a major church concern is better exit assistance, not least for women living illegally in Germany.

CBA: The last government failed in its attempt to ban assisted suicide. The topic is completely missing from the draft coalition agreement.

Justen: This is regrettable, because a mentality is now spreading that puts not only the terminally ill, but also the elderly, frail or mentally ill under fatal prere to make decisions. Therefore, the legislator should make all forms of organized aiding and abetting punishable. What we need is more help for dying in dignity. Nevertheless, I am confident, as this ie is, by her own admission, a matter close to Chancellor Angel Merkel's heart.

CBA: In development policy, the CDU/CSU and SPD want to concentrate on the poorest countries. At the same time, emerging economies to be encouraged to take greater ownership.

Justen: First of all, we are pleased that the Ministry of Development will remain in place and focus on the fight against poverty and hunger. However, hunger and poverty continue to affect millions of people in emerging countries. That is why we must not slacken our commitment, even if they are emerging economies.

CBA: Possibly, competencies in the steering function of the BMZ should also be changed.

Justen: In the sense of coherent development cooperation, to which the CDU/CSU and SPD are also committed, the steering function should remain in the BMZ as the responsible ministry. This has proven itself and should rather be expanded.

CBA: The Lampedusa refugee drama and the Pope's visit to the island have shaken up Europe. Have the CDU/CSU and SPD drawn the necessary conclusions??

Justen: The tragedy has once again made it clear: The protection of human lives must have absolute priority over securing one's own national borders. Furthermore, refugees must not be turned back to persecuting countries, not even on the high seas. Germany has a powerful voice in Europe and should speak out more forcefully for these human rights.

CBA: What about the distribution of refugees in Europe according to the so-called Dublin II regulation?

Justen: The conditions in Greece, Malta or Italy show: We urgently need a more solidary distribution system, in which all EU states participate according to their possibilities. European asylum system needs reform. This is one of the great challenges for the church in the coming years.

CBA: One of the church's concerns was the lifting of chain toleration. See progress here?

Justen: We welcome the path that has been taken, which provides for a regulation without a deadline for young tolerated persons. In the future, this regulation should also apply to adults who have been tolerated for many years. Otherwise, their numbers will continue to rise. At the same time, we should set realistic requirements for a right to stay, for example in securing their livelihoods.

CBA: Should there be legal ways of access to Europe?

Justen: For some, this could be an alternative to the life-threatening journey across the sea and thus also counteract the smuggling of migrants. The creation of legal access routes could also be interesting for Germany in view of demographic developments.

CBA: In a grand coalition, arms policy should become more transparent. Churches have long called for this. Do the agreements go far enough?

Justen: We would have wished for more. But we expressly appreciate the intentions of the grand coalition: Parliament is to be more involved and the government wants to provide more timely information on arms exports. We hope that this will also lead to more stringent compliance with the criteria for arms exports. We are concerned, for example, about the increases in small arms in the latest report on arms exports.

CBA: In education policy, the federal government wants to provide more funding for the educational institutions of the states.

Justen: That's good, because many countries are at the edge of their breaking point. However, the independent organizations must not be forgotten.

The interview was conducted by Christoph Scholz.

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