Replay
The Sound Kitchen
Feelin’ good!
 
Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/21 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 10/21 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/21 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 10/21 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/21 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 10/21 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/21 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 10/21 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/21 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/21 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 10/21 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/20 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 10/15 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 10/20 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/20 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 10/20 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 10/15 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 10/20 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 10/15 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 10/20 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 10/15 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Europe

Far right rises in the east in German general election

media An AfD poster in Frankfurt an der Oder RFI/Jan van der Made

With unemployment higher than in the west and tension over immigration from Poland, the former East Germany has provided a base for the revival of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which hopes to enter parliament after Sunday's general election.

Far away from the hustle and bustle of Berlin, on Germany's border with Poland, lies the quiet city of Frankfurt an der Oder, population 58,000.

The city was split in two after World War II but contact with the part that was taken out of Germany have been restored since Poland entered the EU in 2004.

All that remains of the old border is a blue EU sign on the German side of the bridge over the Oder. Once every hour the 983 bus travels from Frankfurt to Slubice, in Poland on the other side of the river.

Professor Dagmare Jajesniak-Quast RFI/Jan van der Made

The journey costs just 1.70 euros and there are no passport or customs controls.

Poles were not immediately allowed to work in Germany after the country joined the EU.

“Some people were afraid of it,” says Dagmara Jajeśniak-Quast of the European University Viadrina's Polish studies centre.

Far right attacks open border

The open border provides a target for the AfD. Many lampposts in the streets of Frankfurt an der Oder are covered with the blue-red posters of the anti-immigration party, with slogans like “Borders must close” and “We’ll make German babies ourselves”.

The fear they are playing on is unfounded, says Jajeśniak-Quast. Germany imposed a  seven-year transition period and the German market was not fully opened to the Poles until 2011.

After six years it has become clear that local German companies need Polish workers, who fill shortages in many professions: teachers, doctors, engineers, especially in the smaller towns in what used to be East Germany.

To read our coverage of the 2017 German election click here

But reconciliation is a slow process.

“Some of them still don’t like the other side,” says Jajeśniak-Quast, Some 15 percent of the adult population of Frankfurt an der Oder have never been to the Polish side. Only three percent of the Poles from Slubice have not visited Frankfurt.

“Sterotypes are still strong - 'The Poles, they are lazy, they are using our money, the social security system',” Jajeśniak-Quast comments.

The new reality requires an abrupt change of mentality for many Germans. They have to accept that in some cases Poles may run a factory and employ Germans.

High unemployment

Meanwhile, workers in the eastern part of Germany, where unemployment is 9.9 percent, compared to 5.5 percent in former West Germany, do not profit from the open border by trying and find employment on the Polish side.

Frankfurt an der Oder's highest building, the Oder Tower, on Karl Marx Street RFI/Jan van der Made

Wages there are three times lower, Jajeśniak-Quast points out. “So of course nobody would like to go over to the Polish side and get much less money than they would have here from the social security system."

And the situation has been exacerbated by Poland's aggressively nationalist government, which doesn’t seem afraid of reopening old wounds. Recently a discussion on World War II reparations was reopened, in spite of treaties the two countries signed after the conflict. 

Jajeśniak-Quast hopes that things will change after regional and national elections in Poland in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

“I think that [the cooperation between] Frankfurt an der Oder and Slubice is already a miracle," she says. "If you know how it was here 60 years ago, how it was here even 25 years ago. We now have joint projects, we have this joint bus line, we have a joint warming system.”

She is convinced the development can not be undone, even by newly elected parties in governments at national or local level.

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.