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Minister with Turkish roots starts key role

AFP · 19 Dec 2013, 08:25

Published: 19 Dec 2013 08:25 GMT+01:00

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Aydan Ozoguz, 46, was this week named state secretary for migration, refugees and integration in the left-right "grand coalition" forged between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) after weeks of post-election wrangling.

The daughter of Turkish tradespeople, Ozoguz, who took German citizenship in 1989, acknowledged not only her pleasure at being part of the SPD's ministerial line-up but also that, given her background, it had not been a given.

"I'm very happy to be able to be part of the government," she was quoted by a daily newspaper in her home city of Hamburg as saying Monday, a day after being named, together with the rest of the cabinet members from both political camps.                                  

"When one takes pleasure in politics, look where that can lead, and, even when one has a difficult name," the Hamburger Abendblatt quoted her as saying. The news, which was one of only a few real surprises in Merkel's third government team, was welcomed in Turkey.

While the Hurriyet daily kicked off its coverage on the new German government with Ozoguz's nomination, the Haber Turk newspaper headlined "A First in Germany!"

Germany is home to around three million people with Turkish roots, and is also Turkey's biggest trading partner.

Born in the northern port city of Hamburg on May 31, 1967, Ozoguz's rise in politics was rapid, from initially working for a foundation on integration issues, to becoming an SPD deputy in 2009, just five years after joining the 150-year-old party.

A controversy sparked by a 2010 book by former central banker and SPD member Thilo Sarrazin entitled "Germany Abolishes Itself", which argued immigration had failed, sent party chief Sigmar Gabriel in search of new party leaders with foreign roots.

The SPD, long the party of choice for the foreigners who fuelled Germany's post-war "economic miracle", suffered a big blow from the Sarrazin affair and Ozoguz has said in the past that she believed the party should have taken a firmer stance.

"Personally, I think it would have been better to exclude him (Sarrazin) from the party, to send a clear signal," she said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Ozoguz was made SPD deputy leader in 2011 and often appeared with the party's candidate for chancellor Peer Steinbrück during the September election campaign, in which the SPD was trounced by Merkel's conservative bloc.

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Ozoguz had sought to convince voters of foreign roots to back the party, pledging to work to ease a ban on dual nationality by giving all children of immigrants having grown up in Germany the right to more than one passport.

In the end however, the SPD had to settle for a compromise on the issue in its wrangling with the conservatives over the parameters of the new coalition. Ozoguz, who has a daughter and is married to a Hamburg regional politician, will now be responsible for the measure's implementation.

But Germany's Turkish community has expressed disappointment that it does not go far enough, by only applying to children born and raised in Germany to foreign parents, not first-generation immigrants.

READ MORE: 'Nothing grand about this grand coalition'

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