Germany revisits integration policy as critics demand ‘paradigm shift’

Chancellor Merkel and Integration Commissioner Annette Widmann-Mauz at the 13th Integration Summit. [EPA-EFE | Christian Marquardt/Pool]

The German government has approved a package of measures aimed at promoting the integration of immigrants into society, though critics say it does not go far enough, EURACTIV Germany reports.

The National Action Plan on Integration, adopted on Tuesday (9 March) during an Integration Summit,  foresees a five-stage integration process accompanying migrants from before they arrive in Germany right through to active participation in society via work and civic engagement.

The summit focused on the final phases of the plan designed to promote “growing together” and societal “cohesion” with initiatives to promote civic education, equality in media, sports and culture and combat discrimination.

The package will help “turn coexistence into togetherness,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the summit, acknowledging that migrants still suffered from “structural disadvantages” in society.

Annette Widmann-Mauz, Germany’s minister of state for migration, refugees and integration, said the package would “systematically drive [integration] forward at all levels and spheres of life and strengthen social cohesion.” 

Following the summit, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said integration was “not only a moral social obligation but also in the interest of Germany as an economic centre.”

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‘Paradigm shift’

Migrant groups and opposition parties have welcomed the attempt to strengthen integration policy but said the measures did not go far enough.

What’s more, the plan does not address the needs of migrant families who have lived in Germany for decades,  said Ümit Koşan, chair of the migrant organisation BV-NeMO, who called for previous integration policy to be transformed into an “inclusion policy”.

Others demanded changes to funding models for groups helping migrants integrate to allow them more long-term financial security.

“Integration policy urgently needs a paradigm shift, otherwise we will continue to spin in circles for the next 15 years,” Filiz Polat, integration expert with Germany’s Greens, told EURACTIV.

“It needs more than scattershot funding here, a few campaigns and non-binding declarations of intent there,” she added.

Existing permanent organisations also needed structural support, Social Democrat lawmaker Lars Castellucci told EURACTIV.

“Of course, we can’t get there with project funding alone,” he said. “It’s about structures, it’s about the organisations that are engaged on a permanent basis also receiving support.” 

However, Nina Warken integration expert with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) said in an email that a shift to direct government funding for individual organisations would reduce transparency for the state.

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Quotas and anonymised applications

Some migrant groups are calling instead for more radical legislative solutions, such as so-called migrant quotas to improve representation in civil service. Plans to introduce such a quota – the country’s first – of 35% in Berlin were shelved following a backlash last month. 

The quota plan remains controversial, as does the suggestion to introduce anonymised applications for positions in the civil service.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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