The German government announced plans on Monday for a raft of measures aimed at fostering integration of immigrants, two days after Merkel said multiculturalism had "completely failed."
Merkel's centre-right cabinet would adopt "concrete" new regulations governing immigration policy and residency permits, with a focus on German language courses and combating forced marriages, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
He added that the government aimed in December to sign off on a bill that would see more foreign diplomas formally recognised after Education Minister Annette Schavan announced plans for recognising more foreign credentials to allow for the recruitment of 300,000 more qualified immigrants.
At the moment, workers who have obtained qualifications abroad have to pass a series of practical and theoretical tests as well as undergo interviews and evaluations. With an ageing population, employers in Europe's biggest economy and exporter have long complained about a lack of trained youngsters and red tape hindering the hiring of qualified foreigners.
But several newspapers in The Local's media roundup on Monday were sceptical of Merkel's two-pronged offensive – bashing some immigrants while trying to lure others – would work.
Frankfurt an der Oder's regional daily the Märkische Oderzeitung said the chancellor's Christian Democratic Union appeared to lack a coherent immigration strategy.
“What exactly does the Union want in regards to the issue of integration? The chancellor is vacillating and once again trying to please everyone,” the paper wrote. “Wanting to remain the world's leading exporter while not allowing more foreigners into country somehow doesn't fit. But simply offering empty words won't help this issue move forward.”
Saxony's Leipziger Volkszeitung also pointed out Merkel's seeming hypocrisy on the issue of immigration.
“Islam is part of Germany, but multiculturalism isn't, says Merkel while giddily clapping for the TV cameras when Mesut Özil scores goals for the German national football team,“ wrote the paper, referring to the midfielder with Turkish roots.
“While the federal government attempts to hash out criteria for highly qualified immigrants, the flailing CSU boss Horst Seehorfer fantasises about foreign cultures and stopping immigration while enjoying Merkel's protection. But that will simply scare away qualified experts,” the paper opined.
But the right-wing daily Die Welt wrote that multiculturalism can't be dead, because it never lived in the first place.
“No one has anything against immigrants who live and work here and want to fit in,” the paper wrote. “But many have something against immigrants who want to bring their own laws along. To immigrate doesn't just mean accepting the traditions of the chosen country, but respecting them too.”
Those who choose not to do so should “please stay away,” the paper said.
Leftist daily Die Tageszeitung said that the German abbreviation for multiculturalism, Multikulti, isn't even used by the Green party as it once was, and has instead become a “puppet for conservative politicians to batter ritually when they crave applause.”
But Merkel and Seehofer are using this technique and other “empty clichés” to distract from their real dilemma – that the economy, industry and their junior coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats all want skilled workers from abroad, while many in the public identify with the anti-immigrant remarks of former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin.
But Merkel and her conservatives know the country won't make it without foreign workers, thus their recent proposals to institute an immigration point system similar to Canada's, the paper said.
“The irony: Exactly this suggestion came from the Greens. But Merkel and Seehofer would rather throw themselves into rhetorical battles that have already long been decided.”