Leading article: Integration has two sides

Share
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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders