Merkel launches integration summit in Germany
17 July 2006, BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel presided over a summit on Friday designed to speed up the integration of the immigrant population in German society.
17 July 2006
BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel presided over a summit on Friday designed to speed up the integration of the immigrant population in German society.
The first ever gathering of its kind in Germany comes amid the realization that the nation needs immigrants to offset a declining birth rate and an ageing population.
Although there are 7.2 million immigrants who make up nearly 9 percent of the population, successive German governments have failed to come up with an integration policy for foreign residents.
Earlier this week Merkel's cabinet approved a list of guidelines to address the issue, including improved job training and language courses for foreigners.
The guidelines lay out the framework for a National Integration Plan that the government hopes to make public in mid-2007.
In addition to spelling out integration measures, the plan will also lay down the duties and expectations from non-nationals wanting to obtain German citizenship.
Interior ministers of Germany's 16 federal states agreed on measures in May that could require applicants for German nationality to attend citizenship classes that would include learning about the basic values and principles of their adopted country.
"German citizenship requires that people accept our common destiny and feel part of our leading culture," according to Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats.
The summit is expected to start a process whereby foreigners are encouraged to diversify from their own cultural groups and learn the German language so they can gain more acceptance in society.
A total of 80 experts, among them politicians, business leaders, religious figures and representatives from ethnic groups took part in Friday's meeting at the chancellor's office.
Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said there were deficits in the integration process for the second and third generations of immigrant families.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, has put forward plans for more immigrant teachers and for Islam to be adopted in the school curriculum in areas with large Moslem populations.
Germany's birth rate last year slumped to the bottom of the table of European nations. Statistics showed a woman has on average 1.37 children during her lifetime, well below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman.
Subject: German news