Published on Monday, 01 October 2012 17:29 Written by Spiegel
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned over the weekend that neo-Nazis and xenophobes at home could hurt the competitiveness of German goods abroad.
"It has to be clear to everyone that as an export-oriented country, we can't afford to be xenophobic," he told the Sunday edition of the daily Der Tagesspiegel. "If we want to sell our goods all over the world, we have to show we're open to those who are interested in our country."
Friedrich said that former East Germany, where xenophobia is particularly strong, has a clear need for foreign workers. He used Spain as an example of a country with extremely high unemployment, particularly among youth, that could serve to fill the labor shortage in Germany.
"The more foreigners who come into eastern Germany to study and work, the more companies will set up shop there so they can grab workers right out of university," he said.
Friedrich also warned of neo-Nazis making inroads in the former East. He said he worried that neo-Nazis were "knowingly infiltrating civil society in some parts of eastern Germany to achieve their goals."
"We cannot allow that," he said.
His comments came as tensions remain high over the anti-Islam video "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and child abuser, and has sparked violent protest across the Muslim world. Caricatures published recently in a French magazine that also mock Muhammad have increased fears of further unrest.
Adding to the provocation, a populist group in Germany called Pro Deutschland has said it wants to show "Innocence of Muslims" publicly, unleashing a debate over how far the right to freedom of expression extends in Germany.
In an interview with SPIEGEL last month, Interior Minister Friedrich, whose ministry is currently reviewing the issue, accused such groups of intentionally provoking Islamists. "By doing so, they are recklessly pouring oil on the fire," he said. "We must use all legally sanctioned courses of action to stop them."