Germany plans to have immigrants sign "integration contracts" that would oblige foreigners seeking to live in the country to avow certain values, such as freedom of speech and equal rights for women.
New immigrants would have to profess certain values
German Integration Commissioner Maria Boehmer has said that she wants to move on plans to have new immigrants sign a contract with the state. Such a move, she argues, would make integration efforts more binding.
Boehmer said the contracts would explain what services and assistance were available to new immigrants, and at the same time would clarify "what we expect from them."
"Anyone who wants to live here and work here in the long term, has to say 'yes' to our country," Boehmer said. "This includes knowing how to speak our language, but also the willingness to participate in our society."
Commissioner wants action soon
Immigrants would have to avow belief in values such as freedom of expression and equal rights for women.
Boehmer: Immigrants must say 'yes' to Germany
Boehmer said she aimed to institute the contracts during the current legislative period.
Regarding the media uproar over recent comments by former Berlin finance minister Thilo Sarrazin, in which he questioned the will and ability of Turkish and Arab immigrants to contribute to Berlin's economy, Boehmer said that "in fact, there are large parallel societies in certain neighborhoods of Berlin."
But she also said that more stress should be put on positive integration stories: "As an important part of the debate on poor school performance, there also needs to be discussion about those who are doing their school-leaving exams; who go on to study, start companies, are engineers or doctors or lawyers," she said.
Sarrazin's controversial comments
These are people who add positively to the German economy, she added.
Many considered Sarrazin's remarks, made in late September in an interview with the journal Lettre International, to be racist. "I don't need to respect anyone who lives off the state, denies the state, doesn't do anything to educate their kids, and just produces more headscarf girls," he told the publication. "That goes for 70 percent of the Turkish population and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin."
Last year, in common with some other European countries, Germany introduced a test on key facts about the country for people wanting to gain German citizenship.
Editor: Michael Lawton