Germany under fire for language rule for foreign spouses
by Daily Sabah with AA
ISTANBULJul 23, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with AA
Jul 23, 2015 12:00 am
Critics are bashing Germany for its persistence in subjecting foreign spouses of German nationals to language exams to grant them visas, claiming that a family reunion is a human right that should not be subject to restrictions.
Germany, since 2007, has asked for basic German language skills from those seeking to join their partner in Germany from outside the European Union. A Turkish couple had filed a lawsuit for the abolition of the rule after the wife of a man, who had lived in Germany since 1998, was denied a visa in 2012 because she did not speak German.
The European Court of Justice ruled last year that the rule is illegal as it made family reunions more difficult and though Germany had a right to impose restrictions, the language requirement went beyond what is necessary.
Germany continues asking for language skills despite the ruling by the court. The debate over the issue was renewed after the same court ruled earlier this month that the Netherlands could require its nationals' spouses from non-European Union countries to pass language tests.
Sevim Dağdelen, a lawmaker of Turkish origin from the Left Party, says the Netherlands ruling would not justify Germany's language requirement. She said that the court underlined in its ruling that the Netherlands can take measures for the integration of migrants to the country, but those measures should not make family reunion impossible or too difficult.
"Over 12,000 people failed the language tests in Germany last year," she said. Dağdelen says the European Court of Justice agreed with Germany on integration, but only if the integration is not made more difficult. "This is not the case in Germany. Spouses who could not pass the language exam have to spend months and sometimes years away from their husbands or wives. Family reunification is a human right and cannot be bound by a language requirement. This should come to an end," she said. Dağdelen pointed out that the court's ruling notes a condition peculiar to migrants should be considered while applications are assessed. "Germany ignores age, education, health and financial status of applicants. Tens of thousands of spouses were separated from each other unfairly for this reason," she said, calling on Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to apologize to them.
Christoph Kaess, the lawyer for Naime Doğan, who filed a lawsuit against Germany over the language rule, said Turkish citizens had rights stemming from Turkey's Association Agreement with the European Union. The agreement prohibits the introduction of new restrictions on the freedom of establishment. "Denying a visa to those failing the language tests is wrong, inappropriate and disproportionate," Kaess says.
The lawyer said that their legal battle for a complete abolition of the language rule still continues both in Germany and in international courts. He urged Turks whose visa applications were rejected to continue learning German and seek legal counsel when they are denied a visa.
The Interior Ministry of Germany, meanwhile, insists that Netherlands decision green-lit the tests in European Union countries for family reunification. A statement by the ministry said language is the most important precondition for successful integration as "the European Court of Justice underlined." Thomas de Maiziere has said the language exam for spouses was certified as a part of expectations from migrant families for contributions to integration by the court.
Assessing the appeal by an Azerbaijani and a Nigerian plaintiff, the European Court of Justice had ruled on July 9 that EU member states may require third country nationals to pass a civic integration examination prior to family reunification, but it added the "exercise of the right to reunification must not be made impossible or excessively difficult."
The court said failure in the language exam or in sitting the exam should not hinder family reunification, and exam fees should not be high. The language course and exam fees in the Netherlands exceed 400 euros. A Dutch court had annulled the rule for Turkish nationals in 2011, citing the abovementioned Association Agreement.
Turks are the largest ethnic minority in Germany with a population of about 3 million. Germany had justified the restriction on spouses to promote integration and prevent forced marriage.
Apart from the Netherlands, Britain and Denmark have similar language requirements for family reunification, although they are simpler. Other countries require financial status for granting visas to spouses of their citizens of foreign origin.