'Germany's future depends on immigration and integration’: Merkel

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'Germany's future depends on immigration and integration’: Merkel
Members of the ‘Go Your Own Way’ initiative with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a crowd in Berlin that Germany’s continued success depends on how successfully it manages immigration and integration.


Speaking to young people from an immigrant background to mark the 70th anniversary of the passing of the German Constitution (Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland), Merkel said that the “economic and social viability of our country” depends on the country’s successful management of these challenges. 

The crowd was assembled as part of the ‘Go Your Own Way’ (Geh Deinen Weg) initiative, a program of the ‘German Immigration Foundation’ (Deutschlandstiftung Integration (DSI)) which promotes integration of younger people from immigrant backgrounds into the German job market. 

Immigration has been a hot topic on The Local this week. In part I of our investigation into the immigration experience, we shared  internationals' stories, while Part II was our exclusive interview with Berlin immigration office boss Engelhard Mazanke. 

Part I: Overnight queues and complex rules: What Germany's immigration offices are really like

Part II: 'We are continually trying to improve': Inside Germany's largest immigration office

One quarter of Germans have an immigration background

During the speech, Merkel reminded the audience that 19 million Germans - just under one quarter of the total population of 83 million - have an immigrant background.

One of the major features of the German Constitution is the way in which it promotes integration and diversity, while also ensuring that these processes adhere to core German values. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a German Constitution anniversary event. Photo: DPA

Referencing the recent migrant influx, particularly from Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq, Merkel said that while there have been and will continue to be difficulties, this represented the continued changes that have taken place since the country emerged from the ashes of World War Two.  

"We have painstakingly understood that. (We continue to understand) how immigration is changing our country and how it will continue to change our country,” she said. 

“We have learned that our country must be a country of immigration and of integration.”

The German Constitution turns 70

The German Constitution will celebrate its 70th birthday on the 23rd of May, having been originally drawn up in 1949 to cover the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The Constitution has governed the entire country since reunification. 

Merkel said that the role played by the document in underpinning peace and prosperity in the country - and indeed the world - could not be taken for granted. 

“Not infrequently, the limits of our freedom of expression are tested in a calculated fashion,” she said. 

“These little pinpricks… can be words said in an exclusionary or defamatory nature.

Merkel said Germans had a responsibility to resist such incursions in order to ensure continued peace and prosperity into the future. 

‘I have not regretted it, even for a minute’: Holocaust survivor returns to Berlin

The event also honoured Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer, who was imprisoned in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in modern day Czech Republic. She received the newly-created Talisman award for efforts in social integration. 

Friedländer, who emigrated to the United States with her family directly after the war, returned to Germany for the first time after the turn of the millennium. 

Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer with Berlin mayor Michael Müller. Photo: DPA

As reported in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, she immediately decided she wanted to live in Germany again, settling in Berlin. 

“I have not regretted it, even for a minute,” she said of her return. 

Former German president Christian Wulff praised Friedländer’s courage and achievements. 

“You are a beacon, an outstanding role model, a personality of indescribable greatness," he said.

Chancellor Merkel told Friedländer said that the future will be shaped “only by people who know and understand the past”. 

German Immigration Foundation (DSI)

The German Immigration Foundation has created a number of campaigns which seek to mentor and support people of an immigrant background to enter the German workforce. 

The project is limited to people between the ages of 18 and 29, with 150 mentees taken on each year. Every one is assigned a mentor who works with them individually to assist their successful integration in the workforce. 

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