Sometimes, a revolution sneaks up quietly – especially if it comes from above, in this case, the German chancellor.
During the chancellor’s integration summit, Angela Merkel discussed how newcomers could more easily become part of German society and declared that the term “integration” is out of date. German society needs to become more open-minded about immigration, she said, and view it as “an opportunity and enrichment.” In the future, the chancellor’s office will try to rebrand the annual event and is seeking a different name for the next summit.
Words, of course, are superficial when it comes to confronting such a challenge. But in rejecting the term “integration,” Chancellor Merkel is taking the first steps in modernizing German immigration policy. It is a kind of cultural revolution almost equal in scope to the current debate in Germany over cleaner, more sustainable energy. There, too, the chancellor reached conclusions in a suddenly changed political setting – and found great support from an unsettled population.
Nuclear energy was no longer a political option in Germany after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima. The decision to abandon nuclear power might have been spontaneous, but in principle it was logical. What is less certain is whether the chancellor can expect understanding over big changes in how Germany integrates its immigrant population.
Uncertainty among Germans is unmistakable on the subject of poverty-driven immigration and immigration from Eastern Europe. Wasn’t it enough to declare that guest workers in Germany were here to stay and not simply “guests”? Didn’t the parties only recently have to explain a reality that could no longer be ignored – that Germany is in fact already an attractive target for immigrants?
Germany needs more workers and skilled professionals. If it doesn’t get them, the population will decrease by 20 million by 2050, and the working population by as much as 40 percent, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation. But this is not broadly accepted. Germany is a “reluctant immigration country.”