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Germany

Cold Reception Endangers Immigration Law

The German government's opposition parties have all but rejected an amended immigration law proposal by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, setting up a political showdown along partisan lines.

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Hoping for compromise.

Germany’s opposition parties have reacted coolly to a revamped immigration law proposed by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s government, endangering the possibility of getting the country’s first immigration law passed before next September’s elections.

After weeks of debate, Schröder’s Social Democrats (SPD) won several compromises from their government coalition partners, the Green Party, on the immigration law proposal. The coalition partners presented their new bill with 150 changes on Tuesday, hoping it would satisfy opposition requests.

It did not.

Some Christian Democratic Union parliamentarians called it "an immigration-incentive law," others said they wanted more time to look at the 58-page document. Time is something the coalition government isn’t willing to give them.

Chancellor Schröder's government has the majority in parliament and wants the body to hear the bill proposal this Friday. If it passes, as most assume it will, it will head to the Bundesrat, the legislative body that represents the states on a federal level on March 22 for its big test.

The political considerations

Passage in the Bundesrat will turn the proposal into law before the September 22 elections, where Schröder faces stiff competition from Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union candidate Edmund Stoiber.

The passage of Germany’s first immigration law would be a feather in Schröder’s cap and one he could use to his advantage during the campaign.

Facing a high unemployment level and an aging population, Germany’s government is desperate to finally pass a law that will both encourage and regulate the number and type of immigrants coming into the country. Most in demand are highly-skilled workers who can fill the 1 million jobs in fields for which the 4 million unemployed Germans are unqualified.

All parties want to limit immigration to Germany, whose 7.3 million foreigners make up about 9 percent of the population. The question is by how much.

Seeking the middle road

The conservative CDU and CSU won some major concessions by the Greens, who favor a more open immigration policy.

Mevlana Moschee in Berlin

Turkish men kneel in the Berlin Mevlana mosque Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1999. German Government has created a new citzenship law which will take effect on January 1, 2000. For the first time children who are born in Germany can become automatically German citizens.

Among them, were limiting the age of the children of immigrants who join their parents in Germany to 12, except in hardship cases. Though the union parties favor an age of 10, they have little to fight about on this point.

The union parties also won a paragraph in the Social Democrat-Green proposal that described Germany’s immigration philosophy as one that seeks to limit and regulate the number of foreigners coming into the country.

But a number of questions remain.

No one has come up with a good way of paying the estimated 500 million euro it will cost each year to "integrate" foreigners into Germany, mainly through language classes.

Disputed as well is what to do with refugees who claim asylum but aren’t fleeing state persecution.

Heading for a showdown in the Bundesrat, Schröder has begun shoring up the support of the heads of Social Democratic-run German states. His bigger challenge will be four swing states where neither social democrats nor the union parties have the majority.

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