Days before a summit on integration of immigrants, the German government says it wants immigrant children to begin learning German as early as kindergarten.
Language is the key to education and employment
German newspaper Die Welt reported Tuesday that the government hoped to pass a declaration on Wednesday that would pave the way for children with immigrant backgrounds to begin learning German at a pre-school age.
Called "Good Cohabitation -- Clear Rules," according to the paper, the document comes just days before a so-called "integration summit" in Berlin -- the first of its kind. Some 70 participants will join Chancellor Angela Merkel who has initiated the event and invited representatives of immigrant associations and religious groups, economic leaders, and politicians to attend.
Integration deficit for second and third generations
Currently some 15 million people with an immigrant background live in Germany. It is expected that, by the year 2010, every second person younger than 40 in big cities will belong to this group. The document cites "a considerable integration deficit among second and third generation immigrants", the paper reported.
The government expects immigrants to be "willing to accept Germany's Basic Law and the entire legal system without reservation" and hopes that learning German will help immigrants "visibly show their sense of belonging to Germany". This requires "self-initiative, hard work and personal responsibility", according to the statement.
Integration involves Germans just as much as immigrants, said the government
However, pointing out that integration is essentially a two-sided affair, the government has called on German citizens to demonstrate acceptance, tolerance, civil engagement, and a willingness to honestly welcome legal newcomers to their country.
The integration document outlines six major areas where action is needed in order to better integrate Germany's immigrants: Further developing integration courses; teaching German at a young age; securing education opportunities and increasing job chances; improving the situation for women and girls; locally supporting integration; and strengthening civic organizations.