Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Saturday, 23 October 2010

002 - German Kanzlerin Merkel faces "Multi-Kulti" test

Angela Merkel’s recent comments on possible reforms to the German immigration system come as somewhat of an ‘expected surprise’ if there is such a term.

Public anger at unemployment is growing in Germany, with recent polls from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think-tank suggesting 30% of the population claim the country is “overrun by foreigners.”

The debate first reared its ugly head in August when senior official at a central German bank Thilo Sarrazin, suggested that "No immigrant group other than Muslims is so strongly connected with claims on the welfare state and crime". Mr Sarrazin has since resigned from his post. However are ‘entry-tests’ the way forward?

A 'dominant-subordinate' system whereby immigrants are granted access as a result of meeting certain requirements serves the purpose of creating an immigration-cap without having to impose such a cap as a figure as suggested by the UK coalition, a similar move used by Australian authorities for some time now. It deters people from moving to Germany in the sense that it places extra requirements on them and creates more challenge and difficulty in settling. This in turn should create an immigrant workforce who integrate well both linguistically and culturally into the German way of life, and ease growing tensions by reducing their numbers. Merkel is however more here it seems trying to win back support of the electorate than make a political stance on policy since her popularity in polls has taken somewhat of a nosedive of late, and is using an issue that appeals to everyone (especially in economic terms) to maximise that effect. Inside rumours also speak of both the weight of growing tensions, and pressure from her Christian Democratic Party (CDU) backbenchers calling on her for a tougher stance on immigration.

"We kidded ourselves a while, we said: 'They won't stay, sometime they will be gone', but this isn't reality."

"And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other... has failed, utterly failed."

- Angela Merkel

Whilst it is in my opinion justified to expect that immigrants to a country should make attempts to learn the native tongue, the wider ramifications of enforcing such a ‘test’ of integration could be unreliability in assessment and the validity of the measures used. Plus is it really no matter how ideologically ideal, possible to force multiculturalism on a population no matter how culturally aware or fluent in German the migrating workers are? For those who have been raised with this idea like myself (a stark multiculturalist with a love for experiencing new cultures and people), such a system feels like the norm, though for some Germans (with a similar situation here in the UK) resentment becomes apparent. She may better approach this idea by placing a linguistic test with a basic test on German law on immigrants, which would ensure ability to function or communicate with natives on a day to day basis whilst being aware of these issues. We have faltered similarly here by placing importance in tests on UK history, which have little value in everyday functioning compared to linguistic ability and a basic knowledge of the UK political system, and have done little to address the issue of integration on both sides. This opinion comes from a German speaking writer whose ambition is to relocate to another land one day soon (of which one of the top preferences is Germany).

It is quite possible also that such a move to place stringent tests on immigrants could lend fuel to the fires of the nationalist parties such as the German equivalents of the BNP, the Neonazis (who despite being completely outlawed in Germany are still worryingly active as an underground collective). While it may be argued that the outlawing of such beliefs is an affront to true democratic ideology, though one must remember there is more of a wider historical legacy here. Hence why it is so unusual to see Merkel displaying a seemingly anti-immigration stance on this issue, as Germany has of recent times been a country beaconing itself as multicultural, with a named and recognised ‘Multi-Kulti’ movement. It must be noted though that Angela Merkel has also perhaps as a result attempted to pitch this idea very carefully, testing the water without becoming too one-directional ahead of important elections in Spring 2011. She has attempted to bind such an ideology with reminders that immigrants were still welcome in Germany, echoing sentiments that immigrants are “part of Germany” as stated by the German president Christian Wulff.

"We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don't speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here."

- Angela Merkel

It speaks somewhat of a move of desperation to respond to both the backbench demands of her party and her diminishing popularity which has taken a hit since her re-election last year, (compounded by her reputedly poor handling of the Euro Crisis earlier this year) though carefully without completely alienating potential immigrant workers such as the skilled manual labourers of which Germany is in shortage.

The key elements that determine the success of this venture will be whether she can effectively measure integration, and the level to which integration it is scrutinised. Linguistically that is simple, though the wider definitions of integration will need to be carefully examined to be valid and reliable for purpose. This movement could either sink or swim; by appealing to growing unease in Germany in a country where a new strident stance is developing and where previous taboo issues are becoming more publicly debated, or it could if administered carelessly appear as too conservative in nature. Either way if imposed wrongly it could set a dangerous precedent for immigration, and have catastrophic effects on both her political career and country.


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