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Sarrazin sparks calls for new integration debate

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Sarrazin sparks calls for new integration debate
Photo: DPA
08:17 CEST+02:00
With President Christian Wulff expected to announce soon the dismissal of central banker Thilo Sarrazin over inflammatory race and immigration comments, leading politicians called on Friday for a renewed integration debate.

Politicians on both sides of the fence said the integration of Germany's Muslim communities urgently needed to be addressed.

The chairman of the interior committee of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Bosbach of Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), called for a “serious discussion to designate the progress and the problems of integration, without taboos.”

Though there were a million integration success stories, there were “also too many cases of refusal to integrate,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

The SPD's interior spokesman, Dieter Wiefelspütz, said integration was “the mega-issue of the next year” and needed to be pushed forward with greater effort.

“In particular, the federal Interior Ministry is too passive,” he told the same paper. It must finally put integration at the top of its agenda.”

President Wulff himself also weighed into the debate. He defended the vast majority of immigrants against Sarrazin's charge that they were not interested in integrating into mainstream German society, but acknowledged there was pressing work to be done.

“The majority of newly arriving citizens participate successfully in integration courses,” he told the Mainz Allgemeine Zeitung.

But he added: “Failed efforts in integration must be made up for,” he said. And while that was partly the role of the government, “clear demands have to be expressed to migrants,” he said.

While virtually all commentators in Germany, on the right and left, have slammed Sarrazin's comments as inflammatory and unproductive, it appears the controversy he has caused could spark a fresh debate on integration.

Many voices have also acknowledged there are pressing issues to deal with regarding the large Turkish and Arab communities that have higher crime rates, higher unemployment and less success in education.

Sarrazin has claimed, among other things, that Muslim communities don't want to integrate with mainstream Germany, that they are making the country “dumber” and that ethnic groups are distinguished by particular genes – for example that “all Jews share a certain gene.”

Following the Bundesbank board's announcement yesterday that it had unanimously agreed to recommend Sarrazin's sacking from the board, it is now up to President Wulff to formally dismiss him. Wulff has publicly expressed his dismay over Sarrazin's remarks and it is widely anticipated that Sarrazin's formal sacking is now just a matter of time.

Berlin's Mayor, Klaus Wowereit, meanwhile, said he regretted that Sarrazin had “got so carried away” with his theories about race and immigration.

He also stressed that Sarrazin's views were not the views of the SPD. Sarrazin had “received warnings” from the party as well as the Bundesbank.

The Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf branch of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) to which Sarrazin belongs formally began proceedings this week to expel the former Berlin Finance Minister.

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