From “Leitkultur” to “Welcoming Culture”: Angela Merkel and Conservative “Diversity Management” in the 2013 Elections

August 30, 2013

On August 30, 2013, AICGS hosted a roundtable discussion with Dr. Joyce Marie Mushaben, Curator’s Professor of Comparative Politics & Gender Studies at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.  The discussion focused on the issue of immigration and integration in Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Dr. Mushaben offered her insight on the interaction between German domestic politics, European Union politics, and various social-economic issues in determining the transition in Germany’s integration policy under Chancellor Merkel’s leadership.

Dr. Mushaben started her presentation by pointing out the strong presence of immigrants in contemporary German society and their increasing need for political representation in German domestic politics.  Immigrants and their descendants in Germany are facing tremendous challenges in both social and economic integration. The aging German population, coupled with a low birth rate, needs immigrants to resupply Germany’s labor market.  However, there is evidence of a disproportionate disadvantage in Germany’s immigrant population’s access to the domestic labor market.

The concept of intersectionality is one of the focal points in Dr. Mushaben’s analysis of Chancellor Merkel’s involvement in the politics of integration.  She argued that a combination of Chancellor Merkel’s background and experience led her to help Germany embrace its new identity as a land of immigration and to transition itself into a land of integration.  Germany’s recent effort to establish a new national action integration plan and complementary monitoring process is witness to the Chancellor’s promotion of further and deeper integration of immigrants.

While emphasizing the importance of domestic political representation in Germany, Dr. Mushaben also pointed out that the politics of the European Union are pushing Germany to be more immigrant-friendly in terms of easier access to citizenship and greater acceptance of cultural diversity. The political trend of the EU will force Germany to update its laws and regulations to keep up with other EU member states.  Germany still has a long way to go to becoming more friendly and attractive to immigrants and their descendants, especially regarding Germany’s long-standing history with its significant Turkish immigrant community.

In the discussion, Dr. Mushaben provided concrete examples of areas in which Germany has yet to deliver a “welcoming culture.”  She highlighted the degree to which the citizenship reform law enacted in 2000 (introducing a limited form of jus soli/birthplace entitlement) has created new problems for youth of migrant descent, particularly for those of Turkish origin. Subject to the “option model,” youth between the ages of 18 and 23 must decide which of two citizenships they want to “keep”; they may automatically lose their German citizenship, however, in the face of complicated administrative requirements that most do not understand. She suggested that the federal structure of the Bundesländer makes it difficult to implement new EU regulations concerning non-discrimination on the  basis of religion and  national origin, rendering “successful integration” very dependent on  initiatives at the urban or  local levels. Dr. Mushaben supports Chancellor Merkel’s efforts to turn Germany into a Land of Immigration and Integration, essential for its survival in an era of global competition, especially in light of a looming demographic crisis.