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Speak German at home, Merkel ally tells migrants

December 7, 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition ally, the CSU, has stirred up a storm for proposing that migrants speak German in their homes. The demand comes amid a sharp rise in the number of migrants in the country.

Symbolbild - Sprache
Image: Fotolia/Yantra

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a member of the ruling coalition, demanded that migrants coming and living in Germany on a permanent basis ought to speak German at home.

The CSU said in a party paper: "People who want to remain here on a permanent basis should be obliged to speak German in public and within the family." The proposal would be debated by CSU members in a party meeting on Monday.

German politicians reacted to the CSU's demands in different ways. Yasmin Fahimi, general secretary of the Social Democrats told the German press agency, DPA that the CSU had "arrived in Absurdistan. It would be hilarious if it weren't so dangerous."

A storm on Twitter

Merkel's own party members, the Christian Democrats, were also inclined to call their southern allies backward. The CDU's general secretary Peter Tauber tweeted: "It's not politicians' business if I speak Latin, Klingon or Hessian at home."

The Bavarian dialect was an obvious target for a heated debate in social media websites. Newspaper Die Zeit's online version posted a picture of a German dictionary, asking the question, "Is Bavarian also German?"

Several users resorted to humor to vent their frustration. Twitter user Emily St. Denny wondered how she would communicate with her in-laws over Christmas.

Ironically, the hashtag used to discuss the language debate, #YallaCSU, used an Arabic word, Yalla, which means "Let's go." The foreign word has made its way into the local German slang in several cities, reflecting the influx of people from different cultures into Germany.

Germany needs immigrants

Recently, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) placed Germany as the main destination for migrants within the European Union. Germany currently also receives the largest number of asylum seekers in the world.

The increase in migrants has fueled a debate on how to integrate foreigners with different cultural and religious backgrounds into German society. On the other hand, there are fears that low birth rates and an ageing population in Germany could pose a threat to the economy and throw state pension and health care systems off balance.

However, CSU general secretary Andreas Scheuer said his party would stand by its motion to bring German to immigrants' living rooms and that the proposal was "well-prepared and widely backed."

mg/se (AFP, Reuters)