Bundeskanzlerin says German multicultural society has failed
'Too little required of immigrants' says tough-talking Christian Democrat leader
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country’s attempts to build a post-war multicultural society have ‘utterly failed’. In a landmark speech, she broke one of Germany’s last taboos and courted anti-immigration support by claiming those from a different background failed to live happily side-by-side with native Germans.
Her comments, to the youth wing of her own Christian Democrat Union party, came amid growing resentment about immigration in Germany. There are about seven million foreign residents living in the country. Some 4.3million of these are Muslim and there are more than 3,000 mosques across Germany.
Mrs Merkel said the so-called ‘multikulti’ concept – ‘that we are now living side by side and are happy about it’ – does not work. ‘This approach has failed, utterly,’ she said just days after a poll showed a third of all Germans viewed immigrants as nothing more than welfare cheats.
Addressing fears of ‘German-ness’ being lost amid new mosques, headscarves in classrooms and Turkish ghettos in cities like Berlin, she added: ‘We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity – that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.’
Mrs Merkel joined leading political and business leaders who have questioned immigration policies in recent months. Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin recently moved the debate centre-stage when he wrote a book that said the country’s four million Muslims were ‘dumbing down’ society and that the national Christian identity of Germans was in danger of being lost.
A poll taken after his book was published showed that one fifth of all Germans would vote for a party headed by Mr Sarrazin if he chose to form one. Against that backdrop, Mrs Merkel – with her own and her CDU conservative party ratings in the gutter – has chosen finally to speak out.
Until now, mindful of the German legacy of the Second World War and atonement for racial policies responsible for the deaths of millions, German politicians since 1945 have tended only to speak in broad positive terms of the ‘multikulti’ society.
Germany began to evolve into a country of immigration in the 1960s when Turks and others arrived to fill the labour vacuum left by the nation’s war dead.
Mrs Merkel addressed this in her speech saying: ‘At the beginning of the 60s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country. We kidded ourselves a while, we said: “They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone.” But this isn’t reality.’
She tempered her comments by insisting that Germany still welcomed immigrants – particularly the skilled ones it needs for its export-driven economy – and echoed recent comments made by the country’s president that Islam was ‘part of Germany’, like Christianity and Judaism. But Mrs Merkel also added that those who did come must adapt, and learn German ‘as quickly as possible’.
The ratcheting up in the political tone, allied as it is with the fears of the population about unemployment and loss of identity, triggered a sharp warning from Jewish leaders in Germany that democracy is under threat.
Stephan Kramer, of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said yesterday that the current debate on immigration was making people feel ‘uneasy and scared’. He also referred to a study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which showed that more than a third of those surveyed thought Germany was being ‘over-run by foreigners’ and that more than one in ten called for a ‘fuehrer’ to run the country ‘with a strong hand’.