Merkel rebuffs call for Turkish schools in Germany | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.03.2010
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Merkel rebuffs call for Turkish schools in Germany

German Chancellor Merkel has rejected calls by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to set up Turkish schools in Germany. The proposal has also been criticized by politicians and Turkish groups in Germany.

German and Turkish flags

Turks living in Germany have also dismissed Erdogan's idea

"This will not get us ahead," Merkel said in her weekly video blog on Saturday. "We want people who have over many generations lived in Germany to integrate. And that means that of course they have to learn the German language and live by German laws."

Integration, she said, should not be confused with "assimilation or giving up your country of origin."

In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit on Thursday, Erdogan called for Turkish schools to be established in Germany.

The Turkish premier said many of the 2.7 million people of Turkish origin in Germany had problems learning German.

"We have German schools in Turkey - why then can't we have Turkish schools in Germany?" he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Analysts say Erdogan might be using nationalist rhetoric with a keen eye on voters in Turkey

The controversy comes as Angela Merkel prepares for a two-day visit to Turkey. The countries' relations are already strained over Germany's opposition to Turkish EU membership.

Merkel's party instead favors what it calls a "privileged partnership" between Brussels and Ankara.

No support from Turkish community

Politicians, teachers and representatives of the country's large Turkish community in Germany have also dismissed Erdogan's proposal, saying it would hinder integration rather than help it.

"If what he (Erdogan) suggests is to have schools where all classes will be taught in Turkish, then we think this would be a grave mistake," Kenan Kolat, the head of Germany's Turkish community told newspaper Die Welt.

"If we want highly qualified migrants in Germany, then they have to attend German schools."

German politicians of Turkish origin have also shot down the proposal. Serkan Toeren, a member of parliament for the liberal Free Democrats, said that children growing up in Turkish families should instead learn German as early as possible.

Aydan Oezoguz of the Green Party said that while the call for Turkish elite schools might be justified, one should not expect that they will help in any way to solve problems of integration.

Angela Merkel

Merkel's party is opposed to full EU membership for Turkey

The head of the German teachers' association, Josef Krauss, told the Rheinische Post daily that Erdogan's suggestion was "inacceptable and counter productive when it comes to helping young Turks in Germany trying to integrate."

Cool ties

Germany has the highest population of Turks outside Turkey but relations between Berlin and Ankara have been rocky in the past. Germany - together with France - is the leading opponent to Turkish EU membership.

Merkel's trip to Ankara is not expected to bring a thaw in relations. Aside from Turkey's EU bid, the talks are expected to focus on possible sanctions against Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Trade relations are also on the agenda. Germany is Turkey's main trading partner but Ankara has been calling for a reassessment of its customs union with the EU. It also wants visa-free travel for its citizens to the European Union.

ai/AFP/dpa/epd
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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