Changing Times: Kohl Defends Plan to Halve Turkish Population

The documents date from meetings held in 1982-3 between Kohl and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Zoom
DPA

The documents date from meetings held in 1982-3 between Kohl and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

After the discovery of previously unseen documents, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl has confirmed that in 1982, he had a plan to drastically reduce the number of Turks living in Germany. But according to a statement released by his office on Friday, the policy reflected wider debate at the time.

Yes, he said it, and yes, he meant it. After SPIEGEL ONLINE published details on Thursday of unsealed confidential British documents revealing that in 1982, conservative German Chancellor Helmut Kohl aimed to carry out a radical plan to reduce the number of Turks living in Germany by 50 percent within four years, the former leader has defended the policy.

"At the time, (Kohl's plan) … was part of a broader debate on immigration policy," said his Berlin office in a statement on Friday. After consulting with Kohl, who is now 83, the office also reported that the British documents correctly reflect Kohl's standpoint at the time -- but refrained from divulging any more details.

"The former chancellor is not prepared to make any further comment on the issue," the statement read.

'That's Progress'

Thomas Oppermann, committee chairman for the center-left Social Democrats, expressed alarm at the mindset lurking behind Kohl's recently-revealed agenda. "This school of thought was influenced by the idea that immigrants and refugees in Germany were nothing more than a liability," he commented. These days, he added, immigration is seen as an opportunity, partly due to Germany's shortage of skilled workers.

Representatives of Germany's sizeable Turkish community, meanwhile, played down the disclosures. Kenan Kolat, chairman of the country's Turkish Community Organization, said in a statement seen by daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung: "Today's political class would never get away with that sort of thing. That's progress."

Memet Kilic, who is of Turkish descent and a member of parliament for the Green Party, commented: "Whilst the exposure of Helmut Kohl's way of thinking may be a novelty, it is a mindset that has been espoused by the (Kohl's) CDU and its Bavarian sister party for decades."

jlp/fh -- with wires

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