Germany to 'act' on immigration after Merkel salvo
The German government announced plans on Monday for a raft of measures aimed at fostering integration of immigrants, two days after Chancellor Angela Merkel said multiculturalism had "failed totally."
"For a while multiculturalism in Germany was about immigrants living as they wished and not putting integration too much in the forefront ... This is what the chancellor wanted to stress," spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
"In everybody's interest, this society has to act, and the government will act," he told a regular government briefing.
On Wednesday, Merkel's centre-right cabinet would adopt "concrete" new regulations governing immigration policy and residency permits, with a focus on German language courses and combatting forced marriages, he said.
He added that the government aimed in December to sign off on a bill that would see more foreign diplomas formally recognised.
"This country is extremely glad to have hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people with foreign roots who are well integrated," Seibert said.
"But we also recognise, and perhaps we are stressing it more now than in years gone by, that with some foreigners integration is not happening as it should. In some cases it is quite openly being rejected."
Merkel's comments on Saturday came after weeks of debate sparked by a central banker saying that Germany's 16 million people with an immigration background were making the country "more stupid."
Education Minister Annette Schavan told the Financial Times Deutschland daily on Monday that the plans for recognising more foreign qualifications would allow for the recruitment of 300,000 more qualified immigrants.
"Anyone who has studied abroad will be entitled to an equivalent qualification in Germany," Schavan said.
"Qualifications from abroad should be evaluated with the same criteria as those obtained in Germany," the minister added.
At the moment, workers who have obtained qualifications abroad have to pass a series of practical and theoretical tests as well as undergo interviews and evaluations.
With an ageing population, employers in Europe's biggest economy and exporter have long complained about a lack of trained youngsters and red tape hindering the hiring of qualified foreigners.
According to the head of the German chamber of commerce and industry, Hans Heinrich Driftmann, Germany is in urgent need of about 400,000 engineers and qualified workers.
© 2010 AFP