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Sarrazin saga

September 2, 2010

Germany's Central Bank has initiated proceedings to remove one of its board members, Thilo Sarrazin, for controversial remarks he made on race and immigration.

Thilo Sarrazin, board member of the German Central Bank
Sarrazin's days at the Central Bank may be numberedImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Executive board members of the German Central Bank on Thursday agreed to file a request for the removal of one of its board members, Thilo Sarrazin, following controversial remarks he made on race and immigration in interviews and in a new book released earlier this week.

The decision comes after mounting political pressure to drop the contentious banker and limit damage to the country's reputation.

"The board of the German Central Bank today decided unanimously to ask the president of the republic to dismiss Dr. Thilo Sarrazin as a member of the board," the bank said in a statement.

Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank, also said on Thursday that he was "appalled" by Sarrazin's comments.

Speaking at a regular monetary policy meeting at ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Trichet said his reaction was that of a "citizen" who found the comments "repugnant." He stressed, however, that he still maintained "complete trust in the German Central Bank."

German president must decide

German President Christian Wulff
The German president must decide Sarrazin's fateImage: AP

Sarrazin is a political appointee and the Central Bank itself does not have the right to dismiss him.

That privilege belongs to the president of Germany, Christian Wulff. Wulff has already signaled that he is inclined to fire Sarrazin to limit the damage to Germany's reputation abroad.

Speaking to N24 television late Wednesday, Wulff hinted this might be the best course of action. "I think the board of the bank can do quite a lot so that this debate does not damage Germany, in particular, internationally," he said.

The Berliner Zeitung newspaper said the bank's board was no longer discussing whether or not to remove Sarrazin, but rather how to do it. The bank can only remove him on the grounds of serious misconduct.

In the past, both Sarrazin and the bank have stated repeatedly that his comments on race and religion were not linked to his role at the Central Bank.

German Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt
The Central Bank is concerned about its image, and Germany'sImage: Deutsche Bundesbank

Country split over Sarrazin

Germans themselves are deeply divided over Sarrazin's comments. A survey by the Emnid polling institute for N24 showed that 51 percent of respondents thought Sarrazin shouldn't be fired, while 32 percent took the opposite view.

Another poll by YouGov for the Bild daily tabloid, however, said 42 percent did not consider Sarrazin acceptable, with 34 percent supporting him and 25 percent undecided.

Still, 56 percent of those polled by Emnid said migrants were to blame for their immigration problems, while only 11 percent said that Germans were responsible.

In his book, Sarrazin writes: "I don't want my grandchildren to live in a mostly Muslim country where Turkish and Arabic are widely spoken, women wear headscarves and the day's rhythm is determined by the call of the muezzin."

The initial outrage over Sarrazin stems from his assertions that there was, for example, a "Jewish gene" and "Basque gene" and that immigration was harming German and European society.

Sarrazin has been rebuked by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said on Thursday that Sarrazin had not met his "obligations of restraint."

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa/AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler