The German Chancellor fuels the controversy by declaring multiculturalism a failure
The entente between the parties of the German Government cracks in the heat of the debate on immigration that took place last summer. The coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister party of the Bavarian Social Christians, and the Liberals has become embroiled in a polemic with populist accents over the social integration of Muslims.
During a Democratic Youth Congress in Potsdam on Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “efforts to build a multicultural society have utterly failed.” He was thus sending suspicious support to the Social Christian leader and Prime Minister of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, who on Friday proclaimed that “Germany must not become the world’s social worker.” The Bavarian Catholic has argued in recent weeks that Germany “is not a country of immigration” and has advocated rejecting new “immigrants from other cultural backgrounds.” I mean, no Muslims.
Labor Minister says the economy needs foreigners
Meanwhile, a poll by the Friedrich Ebert foundation, close to the Social Democratic Party (SPD), this week found that almost 60% of Germans are in favor of “substantially restricting the religious practices” of Muslims. Although with a rather imprecise approach, the survey shows how troubled the waters are that the fishermen of votes. Yet the Christian Democrats are once again letting the debate drift into cacophony.
In an interview published yesterday, the Minister of Labor, Ursula Von der Leyen (CDU), close to the chancellor, assures that “more people have been leaving Germany for years than they come” and was in favor of “lowering the requirements of immigration for those who come to move the country forward. ” In a speech perfectly opposed to Seehofer’s statements, Von der Leyen affirms: “We must strive to attract the immigrants that the German economy needs.” In the same vein, the Minister of Education, Annette Schavan, warned about the lack of qualified personnel in companies: “It is not immigration that should concern us, but emigration from Germany.”
In turn, the number two of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group, Michael Fuchs, pointed out that “the cultural sphere from which immigrants come should not be the criterion [of reception].” According to the German Chamber of Commerce, the country needs 400,000 engineers, technicians and skilled workers.
But Merkel’s words to the youth of her political background represent a position taken in the face of the dissatisfaction that spreads among the most conservative bases of her party, grown with the setbacks suffered by the Government since the beginning of the year. However, a couple of weeks ago and using her proverbial caution, Merkel said of the German international footballer of Turkish descent Mesut Özil that “it is the demonstration that Islam is part of Germany.” He repeated it on Saturday before the militants in Potsdam, but it garnered far less applause than when he certified the demise of multiculturalism.
It remains to be seen if Merkel’s rhetorical turn towards conservative positions responds to changes in her government plans. What is unquestionable is her current vulnerability. The first 12 months of her coalition with the Liberals have been the annus horribilis of a leader accustomed to winning. His performance in the euro crisis seriously eroded his leadership, as did the May electoral defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia. So much so that a debate has already opened about his possible successor to the head of the CDU, although it is unlikely that Merkel will have problems to be re-elected as president of the Christian Democrats in November.
More problematic will be the regional elections in Baden-Württemberg, next March. The CDU has governed the prosperous southern state since 1953. But recent polls give victory to Greens and Social Democrats. The loss of her fiefdom in Stuttgart would be a setback of unpredictable consequences for Merkel and would sharpen the knives of those aspiring to succeed her.
JUAN GÓMEZ – Berlin – 10/18/2010