Leading article: Integration has two sides

Related Topics

If anyone doubted that chiller winds were blowing over Europe on immigration and related issues, the speech given at the weekend by Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, offered a powerful corrective. For obvious historical reasons, German leaders have always been careful about broaching the subject of multiculturalism in general and Germany's Turkish minority in particular, preferring, if at all possible, to steer away.

Addressing a youth gathering of her centre-right CDU party, however, Ms Merkel made herself startlingly clear. Attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany, she said, had "utterly failed". Immigrants had to do more to integrate – including by learning German.

Now it might be said that Ms Merkel was being tooo hard on her country. While there are areas of some cities which seem more Turkish than German, there are success stories, too, of descendants of 1960s' Gastarbeiter comfortably integrated into German life. The picture is not all bleak, nor has Germany failed more conspicuously than many other European countries.

Ms Merkel's speech, though, was a bellwether, and the clearest sign yet that the debate on migration and multiculturalism is now open, even in Germany where it was practically taboo. And while Ms Merkel's forthright words suggest that she intends to lead the debate from now on, it was not she who started it. This dubious honour belongs to Thilo Sarrazin, a former boardmember of the Bundesbank, whose recent book, Germany Abolishes Itself, and attendant magazine articles, shocked the country's establishment, first, by what many saw as its racist content and, second, by its swift rise to the top of the best-seller list.

Mr Sarrazin resigned from the Bundesbank last month, after condemnation from Ms Merkel, among others. That she has now addressed the subject herself, however, demonstrates how quickly the context has changed. Mr Sarrazin raised spectres that were too dangerous to be left to become flesh and blood on the far right. They had to be tackled head-on.

Germany now joins France, Belgium, the Netherlands and – so far, to a lesser extent, Britain – in questioning the multicultural approach adopted by governments for many years. If integration is now to be the focus, however, the effort will have to be two-sided. As well as requiring migrants to do more, governments and the indigenous population will have to try harder, too. And this will take funds – for language tuition, better schooling and homes – at a time when money is in very short supply.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Meg Ryan faking an orgasm as Sally in 1989's When Harry Met Sally  

The power of the female orgasm — why women should always come first

Sophie Holloway

4Chan threats to leak naked celebrity pictures just proves Emma Watson right

Chloe Hamilton
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits