Merkel catering to domestic politics with ‘multiculturalism' remarks

Published 20.10.2010 14:25

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's declaration that Germany's attempts to build a multicultural society have “utterly failed,” which has been viewed as a move aimed at domestic German politics, has fueled a growing debate over the integration of foreigners.

"This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and live happily with each other has failed. Utterly failed," Merkel said over the weekend at a meeting with young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). She asserted that immigrants are welcome in Germany but must learn the language and accept the country's cultural norms.

Professor Ayhan Kaya from İstanbul Bilgi University said Merkel's remarks are actually emblematic of the fierce debate in Europe, especially in Germany, and should be considered a domestic political move. He noted that her popularity is declining.

"Rightist politicians claim the multicultural system is hurting the unity of the country. The leftists also criticize the multicultural approach because they think such a system creates isolated islands for each culture and prevents interaction. Recently, this subject has started to be debated more. I think Merkel gave this speech because she wants to regain some of the votes that she has lost," Kaya told Today's Zaman.

Professor Kamer Kasım, chairman of European Studies at the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), shared the same view and considered Merkel's attitude to be a domestic political maneuver. "The Christian Democrats were following a more moderate policy on the subject compared to the nationalists, but the far right is rising in Europe and the popularity of her party is declining," he said.

Kasım added this turn of the Christian Democrats might bring about oppressive policies against foreigners living in Germany -- a move that might create problems.

"Integration is important, but it should not mean the Germanification of foreigners. If Germany wants to be a global power, it must realize that an essential prerequisite is to be a multicultural society," he said.

Bilal Edis from the German Green Party Cologne office agreed that Merkel is trying to regain the votes that her party lost.

"The German government has many problems, including unemployment and environmental concerns. The public survey points out that they will face a sharp decline in their votes. For them to use a discourse that scapegoats foreigners is an easy route," he said.

Edis underscored that most of the German citizens who had a foreign background are actually educated persons and at least half of them have the diplomas in technical fields. He emphasized that despite Germany's need for skilled employees, the foreigners were not given jobs just because of their backgrounds.

"According to us, identity, ethnic and religious background is not important; individuals should be given opportunities regardless of these factors," he told Today's Zaman.

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