A Flawed Summit
It all could have all been so nice: the chancellor's second "integration summit" presents a "national integration plan" in which hundreds of measures on integrating immigrants are put down on paper. But the result was clouded by the decision of various Turkish associations to abstain from attending the summit, and it's been clear for days that the atmosphere of the first summit, which took place in 2006, would not be replicated.
The associations are annoyed that the German government did not sufficiently consult with them about tightening an immigration law, critics say. Though not explicitly named, Turkish immigrants are particularly discriminated against, the associations also said. Not only because they make the largest group of so-called "migrants," but also for concrete reasons: Spouses have to learn German in their home countries and have to be at least 18 years old before they can come to Germany.
The irritated Turkish association pushed forward a debate that more than clearly demonstrated how poorly the law handles integration. Some of the associations' representatives even spoke of it violating their human rights. "Absurd," the politicians countered, adding that raising the age of immigration to 18 would avoid forced marriages. And secondly, it must be clear that people who want to live in Germany should speak German. The politicians don't bring up the fact that this isn't quite as easy in Anatolian villages as in New York or Tokyo -- where the condition isn't even being imposed. Not to mention that German is best learnt in Germany.
The Turkish groups -- somewhat unskillfully -- gave the impression that they wanted to put pressure on the government. But German politicians tried to trivialize the situation and insinuate that the groups wanted to prevent what is clear to everyone and questioned by few: that the integration of immigrants is important and that language skills are, naturally, required.
But acquiring language skills in Anatolia -- even if it's just the "300 words" that German politicians suddenly say are necessary -- is a hurdle for the people who live there and want to move to Germany. While talking about avoiding forced marriages may be politically beneficial, it cannot be achieved by raising the age of immigration and certainly not by 300 German words. These are problems that have to be solved in Germany.
And that has to be done on equal footing with the immigrants, as the politicians like to say. This is what should have happened before the changes were made to the immigration law. Then we could have saved ourselves a lot of aggravation, and some things could have really improved.
Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent (sms)