Many Jewish immigrants live in poverty. The FDP, the Left Party and the Greens demand equal treatment with ethnic German immigrants under pension law.
Counseling center for Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union in Berlin-Mitte, 1991 Photo: ullstein bild
The parliamentary groups of the FDP, the Left Party and the Greens demand an improvement of the old-age pension scheme for Jewish contingent refugees from the successor states of the Soviet Union. To this end, the group is to be placed on an equal footing with the group of ethnic German repatriates in terms of pension law. A corresponding motion of the opposition factions will be discussed in the Bundestag on Thursday. Since 1991, the Federal Republic of Germany has taken in more than 200,000 Jewish immigrants; those still living today are often affected by old-age poverty.
Since there are no social security agreements between Germany, Russia and most other post-Soviet states, pension entitlements of Jewish immigrants are not recognized prior to their immigration to Germany. This puts them in a worse position under pension law than the group of ethnic German repatriates, whose social security entitlements from their countries of origin are taken into account when calculating their pensions in Germany.
The vice presidents of the Bundestag Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP), Petra Pau (Left) and Claudia Roth (Greens) presented the motion jointly at the Federal Press Conference in Berlin on Wednesday. "Reception in Germany must not mean a zero hour for these people," Roth demanded. "It is a great fortune that Jewish immigration has happened. Those who welcome bear responsibility," Roth continued. "For more than a quarter of a century, all federal governments have failed to take a corresponding measure," Pau also criticizes in the direction of her fellow campaigners. However, she said, the issue "doesn’t tolerate party-political bickering, which is why we’re sitting here as Bundestag vice presidents."
The federal government has addressed the issue in the coalition agreement, but has not yet acted. There, "a fund solution" is promised for hardship cases in basic security, which is also to be examined for the groups of ethnic German repatriates and Jewish contingent refugees. The fact that nothing has happened so far is explained by Kubicki with "certain reservations, especially among the CSU." There, he says, there is "also a mental problem with putting non-Germans on an equal footing with Germans."
Ralf Kapschak, the pension policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, believes that pension law is the wrong instrument in this case. "That would not only create injustice elsewhere. It would also be factually wrong to treat Jewish immigrants in terms of pensions like late repatriates under the Foreigners’ Pensions Act," he told the taz. Kapschak spoke in favor of the hardship fund agreed upon in the coalition agreement.
Only minimal budgetary burden
The question of whether this fund is the best solution for improving the old-age security of Jewish immigrants is a matter of disagreement among the parliamentary groups submitting the motion. The FDP prefers this fund, the Left prefers an amendment to the Foreigners’ Pensions Act to put them on an equal footing with ethnic German immigrants, and the Greens prefer the conclusion of social security agreements with the countries concerned in order to achieve retroactive compensation via old-age insurance.
All solutions are mentioned in the motion, and all three parliamentary groups would agree to the corresponding amendments to the law. "Just further inaction should not be an option," the motion states.
Exact figures on how many affected persons would be entitled or how old they are are not available. However, the parliamentary groups assume that the federal budget would only be minimally burdened by corresponding increases. The measures should be taken "as quickly as possible", i.e. this year, demand the FDP, Left Party and Greens. Back in April 2018, the "Zedek" initiative launched by Green politicians Volker Beck and Sergey Lagodinsky and educationalist Micha Brumlik called on the federal government to put Jewish immigrants on an equal footing with ethnic German immigrants.
"There is no rational, politically justifiable reason to distinguish between the two groups," Volker Beck told the taz. "Germany accepted both because of the special responsibility from history. Ashkenazi Jews belong to Germany no less than Russian Germans."
Last Friday, the Bundesrat already called for a review of the pension regulations for both groups. The Federal Ministry of Labor told the taz that this resolution "will be carefully examined, as usual." Currently, a federal-state working group is looking at the possibilities of the hardship fund agreed upon in the coalition agreement. In a further step, this fund is to be examined for the groups of ethnic German repatriates and Jewish contingent refugees. After the Bundestag debate on Friday, it will initially only be decided to refer the matter to the Committee for Labor and Social Affairs.