Non-European foreigners who wish to join their spouses in Germany are required to pass a language test first. But according to the European Commission, this is unfair.
The Commission is looking into whether the language proficiency tests violate European Union law, it confirmed to German news agency DPA on Wednesday. The blanket requirement does not adequately take individual circumstances into account, the Commission said.
Berlin must now respond to a letter sent in late May by the Commission to defend its position on the matter.
On the German government's website, a page devoted to immigration law describes the language tests taken before entering the country that require "basic German-language knowledge, in particular to help incoming women with integration in Germany."
"Language knowledge at the lowest level is required, such as answers to questions like, 'Do you have a high school diploma?' and 'Do you currently work?'," it adds.
There are, however, exceptions for individuals with "less need for integration," such as those with university education, approved refugees, EU citizens or the spouses of those from countries that have a visa-free travel agreement with Germany.
Berlin sees no problem with the language tests. "The federal government will maintain its established legal position in its statement to the European Commission," the government wrote in response to a parliamentary inquiry filed by the far-left Left Party on July 5, which was cited by DPA.
Jörg-Uwe Hahn, the integration minister for the German state of Hesse, criticized the Commission procedure, saying in a statement it was "totally wrong and counterproductive" for integration policy. "The most basic level of communication with a few words of German is not too much to demand for immigrating to Germany. It's not patronizing, but instead promotes integration."
If Germany and the European Commission don't reach an agreement by the end of the multi-step inquiry into the matter, Germany faces fines and a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice.