Merkel says German multiculturalism has failed

POTSDAM, Germany Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:46pm EDT

German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Angela Merkel speaks at the congress of the youth wing of the CDU, Junge Union, in Potsdam, October 16, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Angela Merkel speaks at the congress of the youth wing of the CDU, Junge Union, in Potsdam, October 16, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Peter

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POTSDAM, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's attempt to create a multicultural society has "utterly failed," Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, adding fuel to a debate over immigration and Islam polarizing her conservative camp.

Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel said allowing people of different cultural backgrounds to live side by side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims.

"This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed," Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, south of Berlin.

Merkel faces pressure from within her CDU to take a tougher line on immigrants who don't show a willingness to adapt to German society and her comments appeared intended to pacify her critics.

She said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labor market.

The debate over foreigners in Germany has shifted since former central banker Thilo Sarrazin published a book accusing Muslim immigrants of lowering the intelligence of German society.

Sarrazin was censured for his views and dismissed from the Bundesbank, but his book proved highly popular and polls showed a majority of Germans agreed with the thrust of his arguments.

Merkel has tried to accommodate both sides of the debate, talking tough on integration but also telling Germans that they must accept that mosques have become part of their landscape.

She said on Saturday that the education of unemployed Germans should take priority over recruiting workers from abroad, while noting Germany could not get by without skilled foreign workers.

In a weekend newspaper interivew, her Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) raised the possibility of lowering barriers to entry for some foreign workers in order to fight the lack of skilled workers in Europe's largest economy.

"For a few years, more people have been leaving our country than entering it," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "Wherever it is possible, we must lower the entry hurdles for those who bring the country forward."

The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) says Germany lacks about 400,000 skilled workers.

Yet Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's sister party, has rejected any relaxation of immigration laws and said last week there was no room in Germany for more people from "alien cultures."

(Writing by Sarah Marsh; editing by Noah Barkin)

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Comments (54)
kiwibird wrote:
This is question of religion rather than ethnicity. You would think that it would be in the interest of the individual to learn their new countries language and should be a condition of dwelling there. Most all people are racist – it is inbuilt in most that they have to feel superior to someone else – only a very few seem capable of rising above such petty considerations.

Oct 16, 2010 8:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Noctone.2 wrote:
Well they do have a history!!

Oct 16, 2010 8:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
txgadfly wrote:
Yes, the Germans have a history. As does everyone else. And they all should have the right to exist as separate entities. That also includes the Germans. And everyone else.

Who decided that ethnic groups could not self-govern? That a super-state should determine who you live with and associate with? Yes, Merkel is right. That idea has failed EVERYWHERE. Needs to go.

Oct 16, 2010 9:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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