Sunday, October 17, 2010

Growing immigration debate in Germany

ELEANOR HALL: Germany\'s Chancellor Angela Merkel made a stark declaration about multiculturalism in her country on the weekend saying it has utterly failed.

While some Germans expressed concern about her comments, there is also a growing anti-immigration sentiment within the country, as Timothy McDonald reports.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Germany\'s chancellor Angela Merkel has until now been the moderate face of Germany\'s centre-right Christian Democratic Union but her latest comments suggest a new approach.

ANGELA MERKEL (translated): We are a country which at the beginning of the 1960s actually brought guest workers to Germany and now they live with us, and we lied to ourselves for a while, saying that they wouldn\'t stay and one day they would be gone.

That\'s not the reality. Of course, the multicultural approach, that we live here side by side and be happy about each other, this approach has failed, utterly failed.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Angela Merkel made the comments to a meeting of the party\'s youth wing. She told the meeting that there must be a greater effort to integrate migrants.

ANGELA MERKEL (translated): Therefore integration is so important and so it is above all, that those who want to participate in our society, must not only comply with the law and adhere to the constitution, but above all must learn our language. To learn our language, to know our language. It must be given absolute value.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Germany\'s debate over immigration has become more acrimonious since a central banker published a book accusing the country\'s four million Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society.

He was censured for his views and dismissed from the Bundesbank, but his book sold well and polls showed a majority of Germans agreed with many of his arguments.

But its clear his comments and the Chancellor\'s made many Germans uncomfortable.

SVEN STRIPP (translated): I think it is dangerous to say such things as a politician in public. One is then on the same level with other politicians, for example the one who just recently released a book and received a lot of criticism for it.

DANIELA JONAS (translated): I think her statement is very black and white and does not reflect honestly on the lifestyle people are living here. I don\'t think it is good what she said.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Some immigrants living in Germany say they\'re saddened but not surprised by the Chancellor\'s comments, as other parties have taken a similar stance

VOX POP (translated): It does not surprise me that Merkel says such things. She is from the Christian Democratic Union, but we have already heard things like that from the Social Democrats as well. It\'s a shame. It is not good for the atmosphere in Germany. It is not a helpful comment.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Ibrahim El Zayat is the president of Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe. He says the chancellor\'s remarks were surprising and out of touch.

IBRAHIM EL ZAYAT: We are in the 21st century looking into a Germany which is part of Europe which is a more multicultural society which is no longer a country which could be led by a leading German culture as some in the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) Party claim.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Some commentators say Angela Merkel faces pressure from within her party to take a tougher line on immigrants who don\'t show a willingness to integrate.

Quentin Peel is the Financial Times chief correspondent in Germany.

QUENTIN PEEL: There is a lot of conservative feeling in Germany that finds this difficult to come to terms with. That is one of the reasons why integration has been so slow - that Germans didn\'t regard a lot of Turkish workers as real immigrants. They thought they would all go home again.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Angela Merkel\'s comments appear to be at odds with those of her labour minister, who recently raised the possibility of making it easier for foreign workers to come to Germany to help address the country\'s skill shortage.

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