Last week a German newspaper printed a month-old letter by teachers at the Rütli high school, in Berlin, where student unruliness and violence in class had gotten out of hand. The letter recommended closing down the school. "We are desperate," it read. "Many of us will only enter a class with a mobile phone in order to call for help when necessary." Rütli is a Hauptschule -- a vocational school for kids not aiming for college -- and its neighborhood, Neukölln, is a bit rough around the edges with a large immigrant population. Over 80 percent of the school's student have a non-German background. The suddenly perceived crisis of a failed school in the nation's capital has revived a debate over integration in Germany. Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, called on Tuesday for a national summit to get German immigration policies back on track. "The era of blindness and burying our heads in the sand because of an erroneous ideology of multiculturalism is truly over," he said, adding that seven years of "purring" about multiculturalism under the center-left coalition led by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder had failed to move integration forward "one millimeter."
Two German papers were digesting this idea Wednesday. The right-leaning daily Die Welt wondered if the Christian Democrats were serious about strengthening Germany's immigration policies. "Who exactly was purring about multiculturalism?" the paper asks. "Otto Schily?" Former Interior Minister Schily tightened some German immigration laws under the aegis of anti-terrorism after September 11, 2001. "We hoped for a serious debate about integration from Angela Merkel's cabinet after she took office (last fall)," the paper writes, "because they were supposedly not as soft as Schröder's coalition, and because Merkel's practical style -- free of racial resentment -- would treat immigrants in a new, entrepreneurial spirit." But the Christian Democrats have not delivered. Instead, writes the paper, "The Interior Ministry still sees integration as a security problem." The daily sees promise in the idea of a "summit" -- which is still just a vague idea that everyone seems to support -- but doubts the motivation of German leaders to do anything. "The notion of helping those who help themselves," writes the paper, "is still missing from our idea of integration."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung agrees that the German debate over immigration is poor, but takes a different angle. Its commentator lists a few sarcastic rules for debating integration here: First, smear "anyone who talks about valuing other cultures in Germany as an incorrigible do-gooder who ignores arranged marriages and honor killings." Second, talk about "sending immigrants home." Third, refer to "new citizens as 'Turkish-Germans,'" instead of just Germans, even if they hold a German passport. And so on. "If the integration summit is plastered with these rules, we might as well spare ourselves the trouble," the paper writes. "'Get out' rhetoric will accomplish exactly one thing: Further alienation of our minorities. Integration is still a foreign word, for new citizens as well as old. It needs to be translated into German."
--Michael Scott Moore 12:30 p.m. CET
Unplugging the Energy Summit
A meeting of German energy CEOs and politicians in Berlin on Monday evening ended with smiles for the camera and happy headlines. The voices of environmentalists as well as nuclear-power lobbyists were listened to, as energy firms promised to pour billions of euros into traditional power stations as well as renewable energies like wind and solar power. A success for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called the summit to figure out what Germany should do to stay well-lit and warm for the next several years? Not if you read the editorial pages, which reacted on Wednesday with a chorus of disenchantment.
"Money won't solve our energy problems," writes the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung. "It only seems to." The paper notes that Germany needs a wide-ranging energy debate: The country, after all, depends on oil and gas from not-always-dependable governments in Russia and the Middle East. A nation that has already sworn to phase out nuclear energy in the next two decades has to come up with new ideas, something this energy summit, the paper argues, failed to do: "The topic was discussed, but only along well-worn ruts. And those millions of euros are nothing but a sleeping pill."
The left-wing Berliner Zeitung agrees. "What Merkel has presented as a grand investment package was agreed on by the industry long ago," the paper writes. The new chancellor needs to solve a profound problem left behind by former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government (which passed the nuclear phase-out plan). The summit "failed to answer the question of how Germany can secure its future energy demand without nuclear power. Especially in a world where energy shortages, instability, and climate change problems are only getting worse."
The Financial Times Deutschland is pithiest: "Results: None." The editors think the future of nuclear power in Germany needs to be settled in clear terms -- not flirted with by politicians, who may or may not want to reverse the phase-out -- so that huge energy firms will know where to invest their money. Merkel's summit failed to clear up this ambiguity, "because it was fated to fail from the start. A national consensus (on the nuclear problem) -- transcending both party lines and parliamentary terms -- still doesn't exist," writes the paper.
--Michael Scott Moore 2:30 p.m. CET