'Learn German', Turkish minister tells Germany's Turks

12th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Turkey's Europe Minister Tuesday called on the 2.5 million Turks in Germany to learn the language and integrate into society, in a bid to calm an increasingly fiery immigration debate in the country.

"I ask all my Turkish compatriots and all Germans of Turkish origin: Learn German. Adapt to the customs and conventions of your adopted country," Egemen Bagis told Bild, Europe's most widely-read newspaper.

"You should not give up the gift of your identity and your culture, but you should consider yourselves ambassadors for Turkey. Only in this way can you build bridges for a better friendship and partnership between our countries."

Since August, a debate on immigration has raged in Europe's biggest economy when a central banker said that Germany was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim immigrants and their offspring.

President Christian Wulff added further fuel to the fire by saying Islam was "part of Germany" at celebrations marking 20 years since reunification on October 3, earning him criticism from some in Chancellor Angela Merkel's party.

On Saturday, Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, was quoted by a magazine as saying that Germany did not need any more immigrants from Turkey and Arab countries.

"It is obvious that immigrants from different cultures like Turkey and Arab countries all in all find it harder (to integrate)," Seehofer told Focus magazine.

"Therefore my conclusion is that we do not need any additional immigration from different cultures."

Seehofer's comments have earned him widespread criticism.

Berlin welcomed the Turkish ministers comments, with deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer saying it showed a "genuinely European engagement."

On a recent trip to Germany, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was "of course in favour of people of Turkish origin here in Germany integrating, for their own happiness, and for the happiness and future of German society."

© 2010 AFP

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