The discussion slowly begins flowing more freely and the two begin talking about the European election campaigns being run by Czech and German political parties ahead of the vote later this month – and again, they are in agreement. "If you look at the campaign posters from the parties, it's just meaningless rhetoric," Gutmann says. It's no different in his country, Hepner says. Migration, yeah, that's always a focus, and the separation of powers between the Czech Republic and the EU. But rarely are real issues addressed, he says.
After about 20 minutes, it begins to seem as though Iris Gutmann and Vladimir Hepner aren't the ideological opponents that their answers to the seven yes-or-no Europe Talks questions seemed to suggest. She is perhaps more willing to see the good in things while he repeatedly says that issues can't be viewed as black-or-white.
"OK, the third issue," Hepner now says. Gutmann looks at her printout and gathers herself. "Border controls. Now its going to get more difficult."
"Should all European countries have strict national border controls?" was one of the questions in the online questionnaire. Gutmann answered with "no," while Hepner said "yes."
But in the restaurant above the Elbe, he's no longer quite as certain. "What do you mean? There aren't any borders in Europe anymore, are there? Are we talking about internal or external borders?"
"About internal borders," she replies.
"Then I misunderstood the question and answered it incorrectly. Internal borders, that would be crazy."
"That comforts me. I'm quite pleased that we agree on that," she says.
They both laugh.
Their discussion moves on to the next issue: immigration. Online, Hepner said that there were too many immigrants in Europe, a position that he once again backs away from in the café. At the moment, he says, there aren't too many immigrants in Europe. At least not yet.
And yet, the issue does provide the seed of conflict: "What might happen in 20 years when Nigeria has 350 million inhabitants and 50 million of them come to Europe. That will happen! What do we do then?"
We can't know what will happen in 10 or 20 years, Gutmann says. At the moment, she doesn't believe there are too many. At the moment, he agrees. But you have to plan ahead!
"We are in agreement, though, that it's not an acute problem we can expect tomorrow or next week, aren't we?" Gutmann asks, sounding a tad sarcastic.
The two spend more than an hour talking about migration and displacement. They're speaking faster now, often moving from one idea to the next within just a few sentences. And although they both remain calm, the discussion on this issue becomes more of a debate.
Hepner proposes that only those people should be allowed into Europe who have a "high potential for integration." Afghans, he says, don't integrate as well as Ukrainians. Gutmann is in favor of the Canadian model. Each individual should be considered, she says, rather than their nationality.
Hepner then says: "Take the following example: A man from Syria with two wives. Should he be granted asylum or not?"
"I had that issue last year," Gutmann responds, before offering, self-assuredly, that the legal situation is clear on the subject. If a man has married several women in a foreign country, the right to asylum applies to all of them. In Germany, however, nobody is allowed to marry more than one woman.
Burkas, pork consumption, parallel societies: The discussion has now veered off into the question as to whether Islam belongs in Europe – and begins to follow set patterns. Hepner describes one disastrous scenario after the other while Gutmann tries to tell him why she finds such scenarios unrealistic. Why she's not afraid that
- she will soon only be allowed in public wearing a veil
- she won't be able to buy pork anymore
- that as a German with German roots, she will soon be a minority among all the children and grandchildren of the immigrants from Muslim countries.
Hepner keeps jumping to the next scenario.