Germany must dobetter on immigration
29 November 2004 , BERLIN - German employers and trade union leaders have joined forces to call for more to be done by politicians to improve the social integration of foreigners living in the country. The appeal comes amid a continuing debate on immigration in which politicians of the centre and right have been demanding more effort from Muslims and other foreigners in Germany to adapt to the German way of life. But employers' federation president Dieter Hundt and trade union federation chairman Michael S
29 November 2004
BERLIN - German employers and trade union leaders have joined forces to call for more to be done by politicians to improve the social integration of foreigners living in the country.
The appeal comes amid a continuing debate on immigration in which politicians of the centre and right have been demanding more effort from Muslims and other foreigners in Germany to adapt to the German way of life.
But employers' federation president Dieter Hundt and trade union federation chairman Michael Sommer said in a joint statement issued on Sunday it was up to politicians to create the conditions for a society "which offers room for different cultural identities and development opportunities".
Hundt and Sommer said Germany had to succeed in giving everybody the opportunity of taking part in social, economic, cultural and political life irrespective of their origin and "with respect for cultural variety".
It was also important that foreigners who had been living in Germany for a long time be given security of residency rather than have to renew short-term residence permits.
Politicians have been warning of an Islamic "parallel culture" in Germany in a debate which has been sparked by violence in the Netherlands following the killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh.
Last week, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealed on the country's 3.4 million Muslims to assimilate themselves better into German society.
And just a few days later, former chancellor Helmut Schmidt said it had been a mistake to allow immigration in remarks which were heavily criticised by representatives of Germany's 2 million Turks, Germany's biggest ethic minority.
The Social Democrat also attacked the idea of multiculturalism, saying it did not work in a democracy.
"Multicultural societies have only ... functioned peacefully in authoritarian states. To that extent it was a mistake for us to bring guest workers from foreign cultures into the country at the beginning of the 1960s," Schmidt said.
On Sunday, centre-right political leaders kept up their demands for foreigners in Germany to adopt the German way of life.
The Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said Christian Democrat (CDU) leader Angela Merkel was calling for a "patriotism debate", saying Germany's "power and public spirit" did not evolve "from the sum of individual interests but from a clear declaration to the nation and responsibility to the whole".
Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian premier who leads the CDU sister party CSU, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper foreigners applying for a German passport should have to swear an oath to the German constitution. All foreign children should be made to attend a German school, he said.
Brandenburg state's CDU interior minister Joerg Schoenbohm called for "foreigner quotas" in city districts, schools and nurseries. Last week, Schoenbohm said foreigners in Germany should accept Germany's defining culture, saying "we shouldn't allow this common ground to be destroyed by foreigners".
However politicians from the coalition SPD and Greens accused the centre-right of abusing the debate on extremism and terrorism.
"Integration of the foreigners living in Germany has got nothing to do with international extremism and terrorism," SPD chairman Franz Muenterfering told Die Welt newspaper.
"We want integration. We are a country of immigration," he said
Greens chairman Claudia Roth accused the CDU/CSU of "preaching panic".
Subject: German news