Merkel and multiculturalism

Posted on November 4, 2010. Filed under: Race Relations, Xenophobia |


A few weeks ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel sparked international debate when, in a speech to young Christian Democrats, she pronounced on the ‘utter failure’ of multiculturalism and integration in Germany, and the difficulty of building a society in which people from different cultural backgrounds can live happily ‘side by side’. (more…)

While Merkel stressed the importance of the appearance of an accepting and tolerant Germany, particularly for international corporations working in the country, she has often called for ‘a tougher line on immigrants who don’t show a willingness to adapt to German society’, including suggesting a language requirement for entry into schools and the job market. While acknowledging the contribution of skilled foreign workers in the country, she also underscored the importance of educating unemployed Germans over ‘recruiting workers from abroad.’ (Reuters report…)

Perhaps in the interest of mitigating further international backlash, and at a time when nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment are issues of concern in Europe in particular, Merkel yesterday revised this position somewhat during a day-long ‘integration summit’, and called for more concerted work to improve social relations across cultural divisions:

“What I mean to say is that for years, for decades, the approach was that integration was not something that needed to be addressed, that people would live side-by-side and that it would sort itself out by itself,” Merkel said.

“This turned out to be false. What in fact is needed is a political effort and an effort by society as a whole to make integration happen … Diversity in society is something that has always made our country stronger.” (full story)

Following this debate, I was also really interested in the links Mail & Guardian columnist Verashni Pillay draws between Germany and ‘the South African project’. However, rather than divides related to culture or religion, she finds that the ‘yawning gap between the haves and have-nots in South Africa is causing a cultural clash of an entirely different kind’.

More specifically, Pillay writes about the divide between young middle-class South Africans – those who are ‘Trying to Make It Work’ versus a ‘new culture’ of dissatisfied young people who ‘want to be free of the heavy weight of our history and social complexities’. Have a look at Verashni’s column this week, its well worth a read!


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One Response to “Merkel and multiculturalism”

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This is a very interesting debate. One would hope that people, like Merkel, are not playing to popular sentiments during an economically testing period in Germany. In the light of the recent book by former German central banker, Thilo Sarrazin, which has been scathing about immigrants in Germany, and the support that he has received from ordinary Germans, it would be unfortunate if politicians simply follow popular sentiment. This, in the light of the xenophobic attacks in recent years, should also be something that South African politicians should be cautious of.

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