The World From Berlin Integrating Immigrants, Tolerating Foreigners

From American proposals to legalize foreign workers to the debate about integration difficulties in Germany, immigration is one of the most urgent issues facing politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Friday's newspapers in Germany take a look its significance.


A pupil enters Rütli high-school in Berlin. Unruly behavior at the school has kicked off a debate about how best to integrate immigrants.
DPA

A pupil enters Rütli high-school in Berlin. Unruly behavior at the school has kicked off a debate about how best to integrate immigrants.

You would have thought that a complete breakdown of discipline at a violence-plagued high school, as was seen recently at the Rütli school in Berlin, would lead to a debate about educational standards. Reform of the German school system is being discussed, but it seems a greater emphasis is being placed on the issue of the integration of immigrants. Some pundits believe because 83 percent of the pupils at the Rütli school come from immigrant backgrounds, then the blame can be squarely placed on the shoulders of the children of Germany's so-called guest workers. Then again, it seems that both in Europe and America, everything from terrorism and inner-city violence to the state of the national economy finds itself getting linked to the matter of immigration these days. German newspapers on Friday delve into the thorny issues.

Predictably enough, Germany's populist daily tabloid Bild has decided to step into the debate by dredging up exhaustive statistics about how expensive immigrants are to the state. Under the guise of exposing the failures of the government's immigration policy, the paper's actual aim seems to want to convince readers that immigrants are a massive burden to the country. "Facts" are quickly reeled off, such as "one in five criminal suspects is an immigrant, A quarter of all recipients of social welfare is of foreign extraction and a third of all Turkish immigrants are unemployed." Most divisive of all, under the heading of culture and religion, the paper makes the startling, albeit entirely unfounded claim, that forced marriages, female circumcision and honor killings are on the rise in Germany. Apparently this is due in part to the number of mosques in the country -- although exactly what the link is remains unclear.

The right-wing daily Die Welt features a guest editorial from Roland Koch, the conservative premier of the German state of Hesse. In 2002, the state introduced language tests as a requirement for children to enter school, and Koch -- not one to shy away from xenophobic language -- is also one of the main proponents for the controversial citizenship test for immigrants. Under the heading "How Integration in Hessen is working," he emphasizes how important it is for children to be proficient in the German language before they start school. He then explains how, four years ago the state stopped teaching school beginners in their own language, and instead now offers pre-school language courses to ensure that all pupils can speak German from day one of their educational career. "Around ten percent of the 60,000 children who start school (in Hesse) take a nine-month German language course," Koch writes. "Out of the 6,000 pupils currently taking the course, there are even around 500 who have German as a first language." This model has now been imitated by other states, but Koch believes that the country should have been quicker to implement such measures to ensure that all children are able to speak German. "If the process hadn't been delayed by illusions of multi-culturalism, Germany would have been spared a lot of problems."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung, on the other hand, focuses on integration in the United States, saying that in contrast to the politicians in Washington, the vast majority of American citizens realize the urgency of resolving the issue. "More confident than ever before, hundreds of thousands of Latinos are taking to the streets, while most US citizens would rather not have to do without their Mexican gardener or the nanny from El Salvador. But while society in general is opening its eyes, politicians are becoming increasingly narrow in their outlook." The paper places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party. Although the president and other enlightened members of the party realize that America's wealth and prosperity depends on the influx of cheap labor from the south, reactionary wings of the party look on the flood of immigrants with horror. Nevertheless the situation remains that although many of the workers from Latin America pay taxes, have bought homes and own stores, they have no right to vote and no legal status. "It is high time that Washington updates its legal framework to fit in with reality. That can only happen when the new law grants the 12 million people without papers a legal path to citizenship," the paper concludes.

-- Damien McGuinness, 1:00 p.m. CET

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Rum Deal For Rice

"Don't know what she was talking about," was Donald Rumsfeld's rather blunt rejoinder to Condoleezza Rice's admission that "tactical errors" had been made in the war in Iraq. The US secretary of defense would rather have us believe that everything is going according to plan in Iraq. Anyone who would say otherwise, he implies, simply don't understand how warfare works.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (l) on her visit to England, where she admitted that mistakes had been made in Iraq.  
AP

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (l) on her visit to England, where she admitted that mistakes had been made in Iraq.  

The media relish any sign of division in the Bush Administration -- especially when it comes to Iraq. And the Rice v. Rumsfeld tifff immediately became headline material the world over. The two have since stage-managed a rather unconvincing show of unity by approaching the Senate together on Thursday to ask for an $70 billion in new emergency funds for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Few are buying it though and the clash has meant that Rumsfeld's abysmal popularity has taken yet another hit. Rice's charm and conciliatory attitude on the other hand, haven't hurt her a bit.

"What's nice about Condoleezza Rice is that she can admit to making mistakes," writes the Berlin-based daily Der Tagesspiegel, referring to Rice's comments after a speech she gave in North-West England, in which, while standing by the decision to remove Saddam Hussein, she said "I know we've made tactical errors -- thousands of them, I'm sure." But the commentator is much less conciliatory when it comes to Donald Rumsfeld, who has denied categorically that any mistakes were made at all. Not only does he profess not to know what Rice is talking about, but also declares that whoever thinks mistakes were made doesn't understand war. "The dispute has received much more attention in Europe than in America," believes the paper. "Everything fits together: the mistakes, the protests, Rumsfeld, who refuses to stand corrected. Even speculation about whether Rumsfeld will step down is more widely spread in Europe than in the US." The commentator sees the contrast between Rice and Rumsfeld as representative of the two different faces of America: Rumsfeld's wishful thinking compared with Rice's idealism.

The financial daily Handelsblatt is even more damning of Rumsfeld's defensive attitude. "The verbally aggressive US secretary of defense is really zeroing in on his charming colleague Condoleezza Rice," writes the commentator, who all but accuses Rumsfeld of chauvinism in his accusation that Rice clearly doesn't understand matters of war. "The fact that the head of the Pentagon is trying to play the macho man shows that he doesn't have much of the gentleman about him. It also demonstrates his evident lack of historical knowledge. There have been countless examples of women throughout history who have won wars through cunning and strength. Israel's former prime minister Golda Meir being a striking example." But the main reason why the paper finds Rumsfeld's assertions unconvincing is that Rice is correct: mistakes have been made. "The list of errors goes from insufficient number of troops and poor preparation for post-war Iraq, to the total lack of an exit strategy." The commentator concludes by saying that, if Rumsfeld is too ignorant to see these errors, he should step down from his position as minister of defense.

-- Damien McGuinness, 3 p.m. CET

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