Cologne attacks and how to react on this

It seems that New Year’s sex assaults in Cologne have added more fuel into already heated refugee debate in Germany. How would you say politicians and society should react on this? Read few comments.

Andreas ZickDirector of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University

The Cologne attacks are still very unclear. As far as we can see, we have to face a puzzle of different causes of this public urban violence against women: Fights between gangs, affection of groups and single persons by alcohol, facilitation of violence by huge agglomeration of young people, contagion of violence by the use of fireworks etc. etc. This all contributes to a new staging of violence by young men in urban spaces.

Anyway, politicians did already react and these reaction have been predictable: Right-wing populist politicians reacted immediately and used the limited and small observations to fill their prejudiced worldview. The assumption, that sexually aroused refugees raped young German women, immediately was discussed in the internet. Also, conservative politicians used their limited evidence to argue that they are right in their assumptions about migrants and refugees.
Politicians should be very careful with data and should sustain not using stereotypes and prejudices, but to tell people, that time is needed to analyse such a new phenomenon. They have to take different and sometimes opposing assumptions into mind: Did we see sexism, which is widely shared even in civil democratic societies, or did we see something which goes back to ethnicity? Is public control and public security wrong, or did we overlook what is going on in urban groups?
Politics which now argues that we have to do something urgently, but which has no practical solution will have to face criticism that it it propagandistic. This is water on the mills of right-wing extremists.

So, I recommend to run a very careful and more precise case analysis on this violence. We had several urban rapes and outrages, but no clear case management and clearing procedure afterwards. Additionally we have to discuss the facilitation of violence at urban spaces and armed festivities. The use of fireworks, drugs within heated public spaces triggers escalations. As well I assume that many offenders made their appointments via Whats App and other social media for being part of this sexist sensation. Police did not react correctly to some extent, but the problem behind it is more critical: for prevention of such cases you need a scenario of such radicalization which obviously did not exist.

Werner J. Patzelt, Gründungsprofessor des Dresdner Instituts für Politikwissenschaft, Technische Universität Dresden

The assaults in Cologne have, indeed, added more fuel into the refugee debate in Germany.

The wrong reaction on part of politicians is, unfortunately,  the one most of them are practicing: They claim that there is no relationship whatsoever between the criminal activities in Cologne and the influx of refugees and asylum seekers into Germany. This reaction, unconvincing and unsound as it is, will bring additional fuel into the heated refugee debate in Germany.

An adequate reaction on part of politicians would include public acceptance of the fact that there is a nexus between accepting tens of thousands of immigrants that remain jobless, lacking integration of such big numbers of foreigners into our society, missing attempts of getting them out of the country in cases of ill-behavior, and growing tensions between immigrants and citizens; effective measures to limit controlled and uncontrolled immigration; and plausible efforts at sustainable integration of immigrants into German society.

Adequate reactions on part of German society would include: exerting pressure on the political class such that the just mentioned measures are taken; effective local activities that integrate immigrants with a legal status entitling them to stay in Germany into the local society; abstention from any form of racism and violence against foreigners.


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