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Immigration debate

October 31, 2010

Bavaria's Christian Social Union, part of Germany's ruling coalition, voted at a party conference to take a tough line against immigrants who fail to integrate. The party's leader hit back at accusations of extremism.

Seehofer at the convention
Members voted unanimously for the integration plansImage: dapd

The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) voted to take a tough stance against immigrants who fail to integrate into German society at a party conference in Munich on Saturday.

Included in a new seven-point plan were proposals for "unspecified sanctions for parents who hinder their children from integrating into the German way of life or who themselves decline to integrate by learning German."

The plan, which stipulates that permanent residents must accept a "leading" role for German culture in society, was approved unanimously.

Muslim students in the classroom in Bremen
The party says parents who hinder childrens' integration should face sanctionsImage: AP

Also contained were proposals to tackle skills shortages by training existing immigrants, who would also be required to learn better German, rather than allowing new migrants to enter the country.

In its policy, the CSU - sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats - said that skills shortages should not be considered "carte blanche" for unrestricted immigration.

However, the document did contain provision to ease restrictions on offering long-term residency to immigrants earning high salaries.

Leading role for German culture

Speaking at the conference, party leader Horst Seehofer denied claims that he was pandering to the extreme right following controversy over his call for an end to immigration from alien cultures - in particular from Islamic countries.

"If what I say is radically right wing, then two-thirds of the population is radically right wing," Seehofer said. "We should not be timid about saying that we stand for German culture taking a leading role."

German values were "based on Christianity and rooted in Judaism," Seehofer added. "They are not informed by Islam and that must remain the case."

Chancellor Angela Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer
Chancellor Merkel told the conference on Friday that multiculturalism had failedImage: AP

The policy vote came as Chancellor Merkel said that more people of an immigrant origin should be employed in the public sector.

"People of migrant origin are under-represented in government services," Merkel said in a video message posted on the chancellery website on Saturday. "This has to change."

But those comments came one day after the chancellor reiterated her opinion, stated several weeks ago, that multiculturalism in Germany had failed.

The comments are the latest in a national debate in Germany about a perceived failure of the country's Turkish and Arab community to integrate.

Question of leadership

The new policy was drafted by the leadership of the CSU, considered the most conservative of Germany's mainstream parties.

Another talking point of the conference was the growing popularity of the party's rising star - Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg – which drew a barbed comment from Seehofer.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
Zu Guttenberg is seen as a likely successor to SeehoferImage: AP

"Germany doesn't just consist of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Neither does the CSU," said Seehofer, 61. Many see the younger, popular Guttenberg as his likely successor.

During the two-day event the CSU also abandoned its long-standing support for military conscription and voted in favor of restructuring the armed forces.

The party also voted to introduce a quota that would require that 40 percent of the high-level positions in the party be filled by women.

Author: Richard Connor (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Kyle James

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