Attempts to build a multicultural
society in Germany have “utterly failed”, Chancellor Angela Merkel
She said the so-called
“multikulti” concept – where people would “live
side-by-side” happily – did not work, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate
– including learning German.
The comments come amid rising
anti-immigration feeling in Germany.
A recent survey suggested more than 30%
of people believed the country was “overrun by foreigners”.
The study – by the Friedrich Ebert
Foundation think-tank – also showed that roughly the same number thought that
some 16 million of Germany’s immigrants or people with foreign origins had come
to the country for its social benefits.
Mrs Merkel told a gathering of younger
members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on Saturday
that at “the beginning of the 60s our country called the foreign workers
to come to Germany and now they live in our country.”
She added: “We kidded ourselves a
while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone’, but this isn’t
Angela Merkel took pains to say
immigrants are welcome.
The words “utterly failed” are
very strong, but there are also nuanced messages about the usefulness of
immigrants in a country that needs skilled labour.
She is pitching it very carefully, with
important elections coming up in the spring.
The tone is very important.
The chancellor is basically saying that
Germany needs immigrants but immigrants need to do something to get into the
“And of course, the approach [to
build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each
other… has failed, utterly failed.”
In her speech in Potsdam, however, the
chancellor made clear that immigrants were welcome in Germany.
She specifically referred to recent
comments by German President Christian Wulff who said that Islam was “part
of Germany”, like Christianity and Judaism.
Mrs Merkel said: “We should not be
a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who
don’t speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not
There has been intense debate about
multiculturalism in Germany in recent months.
Correspondents say Mrs Merkel faces
pressure from within her CDU and its allies to take a tougher stance and
require immigrants to do more to adapt to German society.
Earlier this week, Horst Seehofer, the
leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, said it was “obvious
that immigrants from different cultures like Turkey and Arab countries, all in
all, find it harder” to integrate.
“‘Multikulti’ is dead,” Mr
Earlier this month the chancellor held
talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which the two
leaders pledged to do more to improve the often poor integration record of
Germany’s estimated 2.5 million-strong Turkish community.
The debate first heated up in August
when Thilo Sarrazin, a senior official at Germany’s central bank, said that
“no immigrant group other than Muslims is so strongly connected with
claims on the welfare state and crime”. Mr Sarrazin has since resigned.
Such recent strong anti-immigration
feelings from mainstream politicians come amid an anger in Germany about high
unemployment, even if the economy is growing faster than those of its rivals,
our correspondent says.
He adds that there also seems to be a
new strident tone in the country, perhaps leading to less reticence about
no-go-areas of the past.