EU ministers ask for ‘integration contract’ for immigrants

Following an initiative of their French colleague Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior ministers of the EU’s six biggest member states have agreed to examine the possibility of asking potential EU immigrants to sign an ‘integration contract’. 

The proposal is modelled on a similar initiative from Sarkozy in France. The ministers from France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Poland – the so-called G6 – came together on 23 March 2006 in the German Baltic seaside resort of Heiligendamm. They agreed to propose to the 19 smaller EU countries the introduction of an EU-wide ‘integration contract’ either by way of a review of their current immigration procedures or by the introduction of new provisions.  

So far, provisions that immigrants have to undergo are quite diverse throughout the EU. In Germany, for example, immigrants applying for full citizenship have to pass tests in only two of the country’s 16 Länder. Critics argue that most Germans would not themselves be able to pass the test of the Land of Hessen, for instance. Germany’s interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble (Christian Democrat) has repeatedly argued in favour of a plan to introduce one single citizenship test for immigrants into the whole of Germany. 

Schäuble has now said that the contract proposed at Heiligendamm should not be viewed as a threat to immigrants, but rather as a sign “that we are offering to integrate them” and that immigration must be a “reciprocal” process. He said differing forms of integration procedures were needed, ranging from initial immigration to tests for full citizenship. At the same time, Edmund Stoiber, the influential leader of the Bavarian conservatives, argued in favour of US-style immigration tests to be introduced for the whole of Germany. “It has to be clear that in our country the monopoly of power belongs to the state and not the Turkish man,” Stoiber told the Bild  tabloid. 

The Financial Times  quoted UK Home secretary Charles Clarke as saying that he supported the move towards an integration contract, which could be used as a check that “new immigrants live up to the values of our society” – with expulsions a possible consequence if they did not.

G6 interior ministers hope to agree the terms of the ‘intergration contract’ at their next meeting at the beginning of May in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 

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