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October 1998, Volume 5, Number 10

Germany: SPD Wins

Election. In elections held September 27, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by Gerhard Schroeder, received 41 percent of the vote, followed by 35 percent for the Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), led by Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Smaller parties, the Greens, the Free Democratic Party, and the former Communists in the east (PDS) received seven, six, and five percent of the vote, respectively. In an election on September 13, 1998, the Christian Social Union won 53 percent of the vote in Bavaria; maintaining the absolute majority it has enjoyed in the state since 1966.

The SPD announced that it would form a "red-green" coalition with the Greens, and change Germany's immigration laws to permit dual citizenship. On the day after the election, Schroeder said that Germany's immigration law will change: "We will make it possible to have dual citizenship."

According to most polls, immigration was second only to unemployment as a campaign issue. Many experts say that one of the most important tasks facing Germany is to develop a durable immigration policy, but this is difficult because many Germans believe that there are already too many foreigners in the country. A 1998 Forsa poll found that 52 percent of German voters think there are too many foreigners and that 10 percent would consider voting for an extreme anti-immigrant political party.

Many observers noted that Kohl responded to these sentiments by saying that "Germany must not become a land of immigrants [and remain] a bastion of Christian civilization." One line that often got Kohl applause was "You invite people into your house, but you don't expect them to leave taking the furniture." Schroeder said that Germany "can no longer bear the burden of hosting a much greater share of immigrants than other European countries."

During the campaign, all parties except the Greens issued statements in support of limiting immigration and removing foreign criminals. The CDU/CSU platform, for example, included phrases such as: "To help keep our nation foreigner-friendly, the integration capacity and the integration willingness of the Germans must not be overtaxed. Therefore, the arrival (of foreigners) must remain as tightly limited as possible. Those who demand immigration for our densely populated country endanger domestic peace. Such people also assist radical forces.... People who want to live long term in Germany must also be prepared to fit in to our society and set of values. They need to adjust to our way of living, respect our laws and our manner of behavior ... Anybody who wants to become a German citizen must be ready to give up their old citizenship."

Signs reading "German money for German jobs" were posted in the streets during the election campaign to object to immigrant labor from Eastern Europe. The Republicans, who received less than five percent of the vote, claimed that "unrelenting mass immigration has brought criminal foreigners into Germany."

Foreigners commissioner Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, in her farewell press conference in August 1998, argued that Germany has no choice but to integrate foreigners who have settled in Germany. One way to ease and expedite integration, she believes, is to permit dual nationality. Schmalz-Jacobsen criticized the major political parties for making immigration an issue in the campaign.

Integration. Foreigners are 28 percent of the 652,000 residents of Frankfurt, Germany's banking and commercial capital, and the attitudes there mirror those in the rest of Germany. Frankfurt has nine foreigners among its 93 city council members -- a result of a European Union decree allowing EU foreigners to run in local elections. However, 12 percent of the votes in the last Frankfurt election went to anti-immigrant parties.

Since July, 1989, Frankfurt has had an Office for Multicultural Affairs, which acts as an advocate for foreigners inside and outside government, generates data and studies, and serves as a bridge between the German population and foreigners. The office is part of the city government.

Perhaps trying to emulate the winning formula of the French World Cup soccer team, the German soccer team has added a young Turkish defender to the squad. Mustafa Dogan, the son of a Turkish guestworker, plays for a Turkish club, but is a German citizen, which makes him eligible to play on the national German team. He grew up in the industrial German city of Duisburg.

Most of Germany's junior teams are dominated by Turkish, Italian and Yugoslavian players, few of whom are German citizens, and are therefore ineligible to play on the national team. For many children of Turkish immigrants, playing soccer is one of the few ways to be accepted as equals. Most young Turks speak better German than Turkish and few feel comfortable when they visit their parents' homeland.

In September 1998, Germany reported that 250,000 of the 350,000 Bosnians who were granted TPS status in Germany had returned; 50,000 more are expected to return by the end of 1998. Of the 115,000 Bosnians who returned in the first eight months of 1998, 1,435 were deported; the others returned voluntarily.

Enforcement. Beginning September 1, 1998, German border police can perform random identity checks within 30 km (18 miles) of German borders. An article describing enforcement along Germany's border with the Czech Republic noted that there were 240 Border Patrol agents for 62 km (40 miles) of border.

The 14-year old Turkish boy, Mehmet, who was ordered deported with his parents because of his 60 crimes in the Munich area, had his removal from Germany stayed by a higher Bavarian court.

Economy. In an effort to reduce unemployment since the mid-1970s, Germany has attempted to reduce the supply of labor by reducing hours of work, encouraging early retirement and permitting students to remain in universities for lengthy periods. Many experts believe that Germany must shift the focus from reducing the supply of labor to increasing the demand for workers, including encouraging the creation of part-time jobs.

At the end of 1997, some three million Germans, 3.6 percent of all residents, received welfare payments. A total of DM44 billion was spent on welfare in 1997.

William Drozdiak, "Frankfurt Finds Itself Less and Less Blond But Not All Germans See Ethnic Mix as a Rainbow," Washington Post, September 18, 1998. Jens Schneider, "Schleuser: Wie die illegale Einwanderung nach Deutschland funktioniert," Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 3, 1998. "German border police get more power to fight illegal immigration," Agence France Presse, September 1, 1998. Denis Stauton, "'Gastarbeiter' may win match and acceptance," Irish Times, September 1, 1998.