Daily Israel Report

EU Struggles with Immigration

Swedish parties battle over future of immigration, Germany's Merkel terms multiculturalism 'utter failure.'
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/17/2010, 7:14 PM / Last Update: 10/17/2010, 8:05 PM

Flash 90

Germany's multicultural approach to immigration “has failed, utterly failed,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech to members of the Christian Democrats party. In the future, immigrants should be expected to integrate into German culture, she said.

While stating that immigrants should be expected to learn German, Merkel cautioned against setting standards too high. “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,” she said.

If Germany were perceived as opposing all immigration, it would do “great damage” to the national economy, she said. “Companies will go elsewhere because they won't find the people to work here anymore,” she predicted.

Merkel's speech was seen by many as a gesture to those in her party who have criticized her over the presence in Germany of immigrants who do not wish to adapt to German society.

A recent survey found that almost one-third of Germans feel their country is being “overrun by foreigners.”

Over 16 million of Germany's nearly 82 million citizens are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Four million of Germany's immigrants are Muslim, and the largest immigrant group is Turkish.

Immigrants have won both praise and condemnation. German President Christian Wulff recently declared that Islam “belongs in Germany.” However, months earlier senior Central Bank official Theo Sarrazin said that Muslim immigrants are more likely than others to be “strongly connected” with welfare payments and crime. Sarrazin resigned after his statements created an uproar, but polls found that his views met with significant sympathy among the public.

Sweden: 'Anti-Immigration' Party Grows
In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats won 5.7% of the vote last month, making it into Parliament for the first time. The party takes a strong stance on immigration. It hopes to cut immigration by up to 90%, and has accused Islam of standing in opposition to Swedish values.

Party leader Jimmie Akesson said after the elections, “We won't cause problems. We will take responsibility.”

Akesson denies charges that his party is racist or is against all immigration. He says the Sweden Democrats simply feel that immigration is happening too quickly. “We haven't had the capacity to receive all those who have been let in. We haven't had the capacity to get them out into society, get them to work, to assimilate them into Swedish society,” he told the Associated Press three months before the elections.