“German must always be the most important language for children that live and grow up here,” Özdemir told the paper. “But we also need to make sure that children with immigration background can develop their multilingualism. Why not offer more Turkish in addition to English, French, Spanish and Russian?”
Özdemir, the first person of Turkish origin to head a major political party in Germany, told the paper he hoped a Muslim would soon hold an important office. “I hope that our society will become colour blind, so that what someone believes is insignificant,” he said. “What needs to be decided is how good, qualified and persuasive a politician is.”
The environmentalist Green party elected Özdemir last weekend as one of its two leaders with almost 80 percent of the vote. Claudia Roth, who already occupies the other post traditionally split along gender lines, was voted back in with more than 82 percent of the vote.
Özdemir, 42, was born to Turkish immigrants in the southwest of Germany and took German nationality in 1992. In 1994 he became the first politician of Turkish origin to be elected to the German parliament, the Bundestag, where he served until 2002.
He was chosen to replace Reinhard Bütikofer, who retires after six years at the head of the party as co-leader, at the party’s annual congress in Erfurt in eastern Germany.
The Greens, who hold 51 of the Bundestag’s 612 seats, were coalition partners with the Social Democrats between 1998 and 2005 but are now the smallest opposition party.