In an unprecedented speech to the Turkish parliament, German President Christian Wulff said immigrants in Germany should take part fully in society. He also stressed that German values and culture must be respected.
Wulff met with Turkey's president earlier on Tuesday
German President Christian Wulff has called on Turkish immigrants to Germany to integrate in to Germany society, saying Turks and Germans "are closely connected."
"Our fellow citizens of Turkish origin … are welcome in our country, and belong to our country," he said in a speech to the Turkish parliament in Ankara. "As your president, I urge every immigrant to actively integrate in our German society."
His comments came amid a controversial debate at home on whether Berlin had failed in efforts to integrate Muslim immigrants.
The five-day trip was the first visit of a German president to Turkey in a decade, while Wulff's speech marked the first time a German head of state had addressed the Turkish parliament.
"We are old friends ... The things that connect us are much more than the things that keep us apart," Wulff said after meeting with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul earlier in the day.
Reiterating previous comments, Gul said Turkish immigrants needed to learn the German language. However, he stressed that "instead of using the integration problem politically, everybody must help find a solution."
Multiculturalism vs. integration
Germany has around four million Muslims among its population of 82 million, with 2.5 million Turks forming the largest ethnic minority.
Wulff's comments come after Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that Germany's efforts to create a multicultural society had failed. She urged immigrants to integrate, learn German and adopt German culture and values.
Next week, Merkel's coalition cabinet plans to adopt new measures on immigration policies, emphasizing German language classes and combating forced marriages.
Wulff's speech was a first for a German head of state
In his speech, Wulff stressed immigrants need not give up their cultural identity or background. But those living in Germany should respect and protect the values of the German constitution, including freedom of speech, equality and the right to a religiously and ideologically neutral state.
"Those who wish to live in Germany must follow these rules and accept our way of life," he said.
Wulff also touched on the subject of religion, calling on Turkey and other Islamic countries to be more open to Christianity. "We expect Christians in Muslim countries to have the same right to live their faith publicly, to educate their youth in theology and build churches [as Muslims do in Germany]," he said.
"Without a doubt, Christianity belongs to Turkey," he said, recalling his Unity Day speech from earlier in October, in which he stated that Islam had become part of Germany.
EU, Cyprus also on the agenda
Wulff also commented on Turkey's struggling bid to join the European Union. He praised the country's growing role in the region, but stressed that the EU accession talks did not guarantee full membership.
Both Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are against full membership for Turkey, instead suggesting that the country should settle for a "privileged partnership," an option Ankara has firmly rejected.
Wulff also pushed for a resolution to Turkey's row with Greece over Cyprus, a dispute seen as a hurdle to Ankara's EU aspirations.
Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold