German Chancellor Angela Merkel’ s refugee policy has attracted praise from all over the world . Time magazine and the Financial Times newspaper recently named her Person of the Year , and delegates applauded her for so long at her party’s convention on Monday that she had to stop them.
The speech that followed , however , may have surprised supporters of her policies : ” Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and therefore remains a ‘life lie ,’ ” or a sham, she said , before adding that Germany may be reaching its limits in terms of accepting more refugees . ” The challenge is immense ,” she said . ” We want and we will reduce the number of refugees noticeably. ”
Although those remarks may seem uncharacteristic of Merkel, she probably would insist that she was not contradicting herself. In fact , she was only repeating a sentiment she first voiced several years ago when she said multiculturalism in Germany had ” utterly failed . ”
” Of course the tendency had been to say , ‘Let ‘ s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side , and be happy to be living with each other . ‘ But this concept has failed , and failed utterly ,” she said in 2010 .
Repeating those ideas on Monday was meant to calm her supporters who have grown increasingly weary of the influx of refugees . Newcomers , Merkel stressed , should assimilate to German values and culture, and respect the country’ s laws .
Merkel emphasized that despite her commitment to limit the influx of refugees , she was standing by her decision to open the borders earlier this fall. “ It is a historical test for Europe ,” she said , adding that other countries in Europe should accept more refugees to take some of the burden off Germany .
Refugees in need should be helped, she said , but she also suggested that not everyone who has come to Germany fulfilled those criteria . German authorities are expected to ramp up deportations in the coming months .
Merkel’s party , the Christian Democratic Union , overwhelmingly approved of her refugee policy, with only two out of about 1 ,000 delegates voting against a resolution in support of it .
Merkel’s comments may also reflect a particular understanding of assimilation . Many Germans expect immigrants to quickly learn the German language and to contribute to their communities and work life .
Multiculturalism usually has a positive connotation , but to Merkel it symbolizes the emergence of isolated societies within Germany — and ultimately a failure of assimilating immigrants . Her policy toward the issue is supposed to avoid the creation of suburbs such as the areas around Paris, for instance , where young immigrants are isolated from the rest of society.
However, her speech comes at a sensitive time . Germany has opened its borders to approximately 1 million refugees this year, many of whom are still being accommodated in makeshift housing . Fights have broken out in multiple reception centers , raising fears about the country’s ability to deal with the influx.
Local disputes have caused tensions in national politics as well . Last year , Germany ‘s influential Christian Social Union party proposed that everyone in Germany should be required to speak German ” in public and in private with their families. ” The public backlash forced the party to retract the draft resolution.
Compared to 2010 , when Merkel first voiced her criticism of multiculturalism , there was little reaction Monday. The applause following her speech lasted nine minutes and again had to be interrupted by Merkel. ” Thanks, but we have work to do,” she said .
Source : The Washington Post