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					       Germany’s New Immigration Policy

                           Prepared Statement by
                            Dieter Dettke
                         Executive Director
         Washington Office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation

            Hearing on Germany of the Congressional
                     Human Rights Caucus
                        Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001

I     Introduction
II    The Current Situation
III   Immigration and Citizenship
IV    The “Green Card” and Asylum
V     The Scope of Change of the New Immigration Law
VI    The Integration of the Ethnic and Religious Minorities
                   Germany’s New Immigration Policy

Motto:       Those who try to put a country or a people in quarantine are
             ill advised. (Otto Schily)
[Wer ein Land oder ein Volk unter Quarantäne stellen will, ist schlecht beraten]

I      Introduction
Next month Chancellor Schröder and his cabinet will try to lay the foundation for a new,
more open and more modern Germany – due to the September 11th events, a cabinet
decision planned for the end of September 2001 had to be postponed. The cabinet-
decision about a new immigration law (Zuwanderungsgesetz) – officially called “Draft
Law for the Management and Limitation of Immigration and for the Regulation of the
Abode and Integration of Citizens of the European Union as well as Foreigners” –
represents, in spite of its somewhat awkward language, a fundamental change of German
immigration policy. Germany’s identity, from now on, will be that of a country of
immigration – if the bill is passed in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, it will become the
law of the land.

In the past, the official doctrine and conception of the way Germany saw itself as a nation
was that of ethnic homogeneity. In reality, however, the German society has been
characterized also in the past by at least some ethnic pluralism. The Dutch, Poles and
French were part of the Prussian society and they had apparently less difficulty becoming
German citizens in the 18th and 19th century than later during the peak of nationalism in
Europe in the early 20th century and particularly during the years preceding World War I.

In spite of a short period of revival of ethnic pluralism during the Weimar Republic,
nationalism and – even worse – anti-semitism prevailed and enabled Hitler to come to
power, destroy the seeds of enlightenment – universal values, human rights, democracy
and freedom, – to launch the holocaust and plunge Europe into World War II.

II      The Current Situation

Germany’s record after World War II is that of a “reluctant land of immigration.” 1 In the
mid-1950s and 1960s Germany deliberately tried to attract foreign guest workers to
satisfy the needs of the labor market. The assumption was that the presence of guest
workers would simply follow the ups and downs of the business cycle and they would
leave once the job opportunity came to an end. This concept was proven wrong. It is true,
guest workers moved in and out of the labor market over the years, but it is also true that
there is nothing more permanent than temporary workers.2

Between 1950 and 1995 an estimated 28 million guest workers arrived in Germany and
some 20 million left during the same period of time, leaving about 8 million foreign
residents in Germany in 1995.3 At the end of the 1980s, the number of asylum seekers
and German settlers from former communist countries increased dramatically and later,
after unification, a substantial temporary intra-German migration took place with the
result that serious labor market imbalances, housing problems as well as social and
cultural tensions shook Germany. Outbursts of xenophobia and attacks on foreigners in
Germany reached crisis proportions in 1992. Until 1998, the former government of the
Federal Republic of Germany led by Chancellor Kohl tried to introduce piecemeal
reforms with the aim of reducing the number of foreign citizens living in Germany and to
curtail the number of asylum seekers, based on an official policy which maintained that
Germany is not an immigration country.

However, it is a fact that today, in cities like Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg and
Berlin the number of non-German residents is between 20% and 25%. More than one
million Muslims live in Germany and the city of Hamburg is no longer characterized only
by domes and cathedrals of the Catholic and Protestant churches. There are also minarets
and, fortunately, we have more synagogues as well, particularly in Berlin. Today,
Germany is a multi-ethnic society.

  See Philip L. Martin. Germany: Reluctant Land of Immigration, German Issues 21, American Institute for
Contemporary German Studies, 1998.
  ibid, p.1.

At the end of the year 2000, 7.3 million non-Germans lived in Germany – 5.8 million
immigrants and 1.5 million non-Germans born in Germany. This is a significant change
and multi-ethnicity is a permanent characteristic of modern Germany. It is long overdue
that Germany adjust its laws and political culture to the facts of life and recognizes
officially that it is a multi-ethnic state.

III         Immigration and Citizenship

The new German draft immigration law tries to make the necessary adjustments for a
new German identity. It will be crucial, however, to have the new law approved not only
by a majority of the Bundestag, but also by the Bundesrat, the second chamber in
Germany’s federal system where the CDU/CSU opposition has a majority and not the
ruling SPD/Green coalition under Chancellor Schröder. Whether CDU and CSU will
support the new law is still an open question. Without the consent of the Bundesrat, the
legislation cannot become law.

The Bavarian Ministerpräsident Stoiber (CSU) already voiced his opposition to the new
immigration bill and large parts of the CDU might be tempted to follow his advice and
start the electoral campaign for the 2002 general elections with the objective and a
strategy to defeat the new immigration law.

Two years ago, in state elections in Hesse, the CDU succeeded in toppling the ruling
SPD-Green coalition with an anti-foreigner campaign strategy, forcing the new
government to give up plans to introduce dual citizenship in Germany. Today, dual
citizenship is possible only as the exception from the rule. In general, at the latest by age
23, foreign citizens born in Germany are expected to take a final decision about their
nationality. They can become German citizens if they have lived there for at least eight
years or they can keep their original citizenship and continue to reside in Germany as
foreign nationals. Although permanent dual citizenship is not part of the new citizenship
law in Germany – except for very few situations – Germany now has a much more


modern and open concept of citizenship. Ethnicity is no longer the only principle access
to German citizenship. Ius Soli – the legal concept which puts the place of birth of an
individual into the center of citizenship – can now provide access to German citizenship
as well. If the CDU and CSU decide not to support the new immigration law, there is
little chance that the project will succeed and be passed by the Bundesrat. This would be
a severe blow for Germany’s future as a modern and more open country. Germany’s
global competitiveness would be severely hampered, and social and cultural tensions
might rise again, particularly under the conditions of a global recession.

IV     The “Green Card” and Asylum

In the next few decades, demographic trends will lead to a dramatic decrease in the
German population. If the current low birthrates continue – and there is little hope they
will not – the German population will be just about 60 million in 2050, down from 82
million as of today. This will create dangerous labor market imbalances and put
additional pressure on our social security system.

Already today, there is a severe lack of skilled labor. The SPD/Green coalition introduced
the so-called “Green Card” in order to attract skilled labor particularly in the high-tech
industries. The “Green Card” is a misnomer. It is an effort to increase the appeal of a
program that is much more similar to the H1-B visa program in the U.S. rather than the
permanent Green Card. But, the U.S. Green Card is popular and well-known in Germany
and it is no surprise that the government chose to name the program after the better-
known U.S. Green Card rather than the technically correct H1-B program.

The German “Green Card” has turned out to be a popular program. Within a year, 8688
highly-trained IT-workers came to Germany: 804 from India, 1,217 from Russia, Belarus,
the Ukraine and the Baltic States, 754 from Romania, 578 from the Czech Republic and
Slovakia, 540 from Balkan countries, 329 from Hungary, 296 from North Africa, 278
from Bulgaria, 207 from South America, 132 from Pakistan and 2,553 from other
countries. The program allows skilled workers to work in Germany for 5 years. A
university or college-level degree is required for participation

The new draft law does not diminish the right of asylum seekers or other refugees.
Asylum seekers will still be able to find a safe haven in Germany. The September 11
events, however, have forced Germany to tighten internal security measures.

The fact that a group of Islamic students at a Technical University in Hamburg turned out
to be a terrorist cell involved in the strategic planning of the attack on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon came as a shock for the German government as well as for the
general public. The first step the government took as a result of these deadly activities
was to treat the religious privilege of foreign associations differently. Additional
measures will also be taken to improve the domestic security.

Under the impact of the Balkan crisis when Germany absorbed the majority of refugees
from Bosnia, Croatia, Albania and Kosovo, an effort was made by the previous German
government to limit the access of refugees to Germany. This policy emerged in the
context of an overall lack of willingness of countries other than Germany to take more
refugees from the Balkan region.

Asylum, like immigration, can never be totally unlimited, but there is no simple formula
for the appropriate number of asylum seekers or immigrants to be admitted. Quotas can
only work on a temporary basis. It is impossible to determine a fixed ceiling of the share
of refugees a country can accept or to set specific numerical limits for foreign nationals in
Germany. Any effort in that direction would go against the basic principles of an open

V      The Scope of Change of the New Immigration Law

Altogether, Germany’s more recent record is not too bad. With a share of almost 9% non-
Germans of the total German population, Germany is among the European countries with
the highest share of foreign nationals. The EU average share of foreign nationals is 5.1%
and the figures for some of Germany’s neighbors are as follows: France 6.3%; Spain
1.5%; Italy 1.5%; Austria 6.6%; Finland 1.5%; Sweden 5.9%; United Kingdom 3.6%. In

Europe, only Switzerland has a higher share of foreign nationals than Germany: 19.4%.
The reason here is that it is very difficult to obtain Swiss citizenship.

The new German immigration law is based on gainful employment and designed to open
Germany for immigrants who seek employment. This demand-oriented concept implies
that there are both opportunities and limits related to the labor market conditions at any
given time. The law provides a supply-side instrument for immigrants with certain
qualifications. There is also a point-system – like in Canada – which offers immigrants a
permanent right of establishment provided they fulfill certain skill criteria.
Highly skilled immigrants are allowed to claim the right of domicile for family members
and this includes children of up to 18 years of age. A more difficult issue is whether in
the case of family reunification there should be an age limitation for children. The new
immigration bill suggests an age limit of up to 12 as a general rule with the possibility of
individual case by case decision.

The new law also creates a federal migration office. The mission of this new federal
agency is to develop a nationwide integration program. Integration is a key concept for
the success of immigration and it starts at both ends of the issue:
   providing the necessary institutional support for immigrants by the federal
    government, and
   active participation of immigrants in these programs.

A controversial issue is whether these programs should be entirely voluntary or
mandatory. As a matter of principle, integration programs are voluntary and immigrants
have a right to participate in these programs. However, the new draft law also stipulates a
mandatory participation in language courses if an immigrant has insufficient language
skills and his or her right of domicile is limited to less than five years.

Successful integration needs, of course, both the willingness to integrate as well as the
acceptance of immigrants by the German people. In the past, not enough emphasis was
placed on the need to create a political culture of immigration. This goes way beyond the
necessary legal instruments to regulate immigration.

The SPD/Green coalition will try to launch a campaign for a Decade of Integration in
order to increase the acceptance of immigration in the general public and to strengthen
the four pillars of integration:

    developing the necessary language skills,
    vocational education and qualification,
    value-based learning and integration,
    social guidance and counseling.

The new draft law merges the ideas of several committees and non-governmental
institutions, in particular the work of the bipartisan immigration commission under the
leadership of the former President of the German Bundestag, Rita Süssmuth. It also
includes suggestions of the CDU opposition, the SPD Parliamentary Group and the
Commissioner of the Federal Government for Foreigners.

VI      The Integration of Ethnic and Religious Minorities

The integration of ethnic and religious minorities is not an easy task and not a simple
concept. Germany – like other countries – had difficulties in the past to adjust to a more
multicultural environment as a result of migration, greater mobility of people, a more
multinational economy and – most importantly – the strong forces of globalization of
human life in general.

German unification and high unemployment following the merger of East and West
Germany created additional social and economic tensions, which led to outbursts of
xenophobia and attacks on foreigners in the early 1990s. At that time, particularly during
the crisis year 1992 the then government did not do enough in order to stop attacks on
foreigners altogether. The new SPD/Green government has taken a more pro-active
position, particularly regarding social integration. Changes in Germany’s citizenship law
together with the new draft immigration law provide a much better foundation to create a
political culture of ethnic and religious diversity. European integration, particularly the
enlargement of the European Union will inevitably render ethnic homogeneity obsolete.
Now that the necessary legal instruments of integration are available, the main task for
the future will be the social integration of ethnic and religious minorities.

Immigrants need a political representation of their interests. They have formed their own
associations and they will strengthen them in the future in order to participate more
successfully in the political discourse. This active participation of minorities in the
democratic process of decision-making is crucial for a successful social and political
integration. The federal government initiated an Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance
in order to facilitate the active participation of civic groups and individual citizens in the
complex task of social integration.

Most importantly, the Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance needs popular support, not
only on the federal level, but also on the state and local levels and political parties have to
stay away from exploiting fears and concerns about immigration for short-term political
profiteering. It will be a difficult task and it will take time. One also has to anticipate that
there will be setbacks, but the struggle must be won and it will be won.