Court decision could prompt migration reform

After a court ruling that Turkish spouses couldn't be forced to take a language test before joining their partners in Germany, community organizations have guarded hopes for a new law.

A Berlin court found on Friday that Germany's attempt to make a system of language tests for spouses immigrating to Germany comply with European rules had failed, and that the law would have to be rewritten.

“We hope that the law will be completely reformed,” president of the Turkish Communities in Germany Safter Cinar told The Local.

“The current law's first sentence says that its purpose is 'to manage and restrict immigration'.

“There are still a lot of restrictions preventing families from being reunited.”

In July 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that Germany's requirement under a 2007 law for people to take a language test before immigrating to join their spouse was illegal.

A 1980 agreement between the then-European Economic Community and Turkey prohibits limiting the rights of Turkish migrants to free movement.

Since the main complaint was that poorly-off people wouldn't be able to pay for German lessons, and therefore could be stuck in bureaucratic limbo for years, the Foreign Ministry introduced a means test that would allow exceptions to the language requirement in cases of financial hardship.

But the judges at the Berlin upper civil court found that even with the means test, the language requirement was incompatible with the original agreement, and the 2007 immigration law would have to be rewritten.

Germany needs young workers

Disagreements are currently raging in the government over how the immigration rules should be reformed.

Social Democratic Party (SPD) general secretary Yasmin Fahimi said on Monday that if the country doesn't loosen its immigration rules, it will lack the young workers needed to support growing numbers of pensioners in future.

“By the year 2025 we'll lose more than six million workers,” Fahimi told news agency dpa.

“That will have serious consequences for our pension system.”

The party is currently interested in aping the Canadian immigration system, which manages numbers by allowing people into the country based on the need for workers, language skills and education.

But Cinar has little hope that the SPD will prove a moderating influence on conservative Christian Social Union (CDU) members of the government.

“If the SPD were to stick to its guns, things would be a lot different,” he said.

“The SPD said that language tests were totally out of the question. They said the test should be abolished for everyone, but then they just kept the law.”

CDU interior policy expert Wolfgang Bosbach told the Passauer Neue Presse on Monday that the SPD's keenness to increase immigration was “difficult to accept against a background of more than three million unemployed, many immigrants among them”.