We live in an age of mobility, constant interaction and shared spaces. Therefore individual actions have a greater impact on our communities than ever before. What individuals do, how they react to each other and how they communicate with one another have an immense impact on their immediate and extended envi- ronment. There are many policy areas, from global warming to anti-terrorism, around which the global community must unite, live together and work together in order to secure long-term peace and stability.
Integration is one such policy area that has gained particular significance in the twenty-first century. It is the key- stone of policy-making in a number of countries, including Canada and Germany, because it intersects many important policy areas such as education, the labour market, housing and citizenship. With increased interaction, the question of identity and the framework of integration have become cru- cial to social cohesion, especially at the community level.
Canada and Germany, like many countries in Europe, are both currently defining their framework for integration and discussing the rights and responsibilities of migrants and non-migrants alike. In both countries, debates about integration policy have oscillated between a two-way inte- gration process and a one-way process, in which the non- immigrant majority places demands on immigrant minorities.
With increasing first-generation immigrant populations and a significant presence of citizens of immigrant origin in both North America and Europe, it has become clear ”” even in Europe ”” that in the long term what is good for the minority population is also good for the majority and vice versa. For example, the systematic exclusion of immigrants and persons of immigrant origin from the labour market and higher education will result in skills shortages and economical- ly underprivileged classes, a situation that will harm the country as a whole. This logic is widely accepted, but some members of society have not so easily embraced it, nor has it filtered into vital public sectors, especially in Germany.
Yet progress has been made. In Europe, the foundation on which the rights and responsibilities of migrants and non-migrants should ideally be built was embodied in the 2004 Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy (CBP). The CBPs have established a sound basis for integration in EU member states, one on which the debate should continue to evolve. They have given European governments a tool to sensi- tize their public’s expectations regard- ing integration, and they are currently being transposed into national debates and into legislation.
The first principle frames integration as a dynamic, two-way process of ”œmutual accommodation” by all immigrants and residents of member states. The second anchors ”œthe respect for the basic values of the European Union”’ in the two-way process of societal integration.
The 11 Common Basic Principles are an important milestone in the process of integration. When dealing with integra- tion, one of the key challenges is creating equality in an unequal situation. Structuring the integration process is indeed a public negotiation between unequal parties since migrants do not have the same rights as non-migrants until naturalization. Nor do migrants have the same influence on public deci- sion-making as non-migrants. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the interactive process of societal integration be conducted at eye level with migrants. When governments exclude immigrants from the integration dialogue and deci- sion-making process and when govern- ments only place demands on immigrants (a one-way process), then the level of societal integration is not likely to increase significantly.
In Germany, this has been an issue with regard to the labour market, espe- cially for Third Country migrants who are often subject to labour market restrictions. Additionally, when a job is available, EU citizens generally have priority, should applicants’ qualifica- tions be otherwise equal.
The labour market is perhaps the last bastion that has resisted reforms. But the education system has also demon- strated that it is not ready to fulfil the needs of an increasingly diverse society. It too will ultimately have to be reformed. Education and the early streaming of children into academic or non-academic paths are still areas of pol- icy-making that are hard to reform in Germany and do not currently produce the desired outcome of equal opportunity for all.
Despite these tensions, Germany has not been affected by the recent European crisis in immigration and inte- gration policies. Unlike Southern Europe, the country has not been able to detect large-scale irregular immigration and, unlike in France, immigrant com- munities have not resorted to violence.
In 2005, 6.7 million immigrants were living in Germany. With a total pop- ulation just over 82 million, a little more than 8 percent of Germany’s resident population does not hold a German passport. German residents of Turkish nationality form the largest immigrant group, about 1.8 million people. This represents 26 percent of the total immi- grant population. Italians (8 percent), persons from Serbia and Montenegro (7 percent) and Poles (5 per- cent) represent Germany’s largest immigrant popula- tions. The vast majority of immigrants live in the for- mer West Germany, and North Rhine-Westphalia is home to the largest number of immigrants.
Thus Germany is a country of immigration, but it has had trouble facing and recognizing this fact. Politicians, especially conservative politicians, have often demanded that migrants adapt and change their behaviour without adequately understanding the cultural or religious meaning of these actions for the individual concerned.
One of the most loaded terms of the German debate has been German ”œLeitkultur,” which has been accompa- nied by the one-way demand on migrants to follow this Leitkultur. What the Leitkultur entails is a matter of general disagreement between political par- ties. At minimum, it refers to the values embodied in the German constitution. Some argue that Judeo-Christian religious symbolism is part of it. This con- text for framing the integration debate has neglected to discuss how host soci- eties are evolving due to immigration and how the mindset of non-migrants has to change and adapt to Germany’s new reality of life.
It was only in the year 2000 that politicians reached an agreement to admit that Germany is indeed a coun- try of immigration. Prior to that, it was taboo to assert this publicly, even though immigration has been a reality since the 1950s. Since then, Germany has undergone phases of a rapid decel- eration (2001-2004) and acceleration (2000, 2005-2007) in advancing its integration and migration policy. The taboo concerning migration and integration policy was initially broken by the Independent Commission on Migration in 2000, which I chaired. The commission’s report made detailed suggestions on how German migration and integration legislation should be reformed.
It took approximately five years for the reform process to conclude. Terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, and subsequent attacks in Europe interrupted the initial reform consensus, which had included low-scale labour migration through a points system. During the five year con- sultations between parliamentary fac- tions as well as lower and upper houses of parliament, the adoption of the points system was put on hold. This has left Germany with a limited ability to structure immigration. The 1973 stop on labour migration remained, as did the more than 30 exceptions it con- tained to allow foreign labour into the country. Indeed, more than 300,000 (mostly seasonal and temporary) workers are allowed into Germany annually.
The new immigration and integra- tion reform finally went into force in 2005. This policy overhaul was long overdue and heavily debated. Since 2005, migration and integration have been at the top of German political agendas. The Office for Refugees has been transformed into the Office for Migration and Refugees; it also admin- isters integration programs. In July of this year, Germany passed additional legislation reform to make existing EU directives the national law. This occurred virtually simultaneously with the completion of the German National Integration Plan.
The majority of the revisions implemented EU directives (such as creating a temporary residence permit for victims of human trafficking and a separate visa category of permanent residence for EU member state citizens) and were not a source of controversy.
However, two points angered Turkish migrant organizations: The requirement that foreign spouses obtain a basic knowledge of the German lan- guage before being eligible for a visa; and the introduction of a minimum age for foreign spouses (18 years) to qualify for family reunification. The government has argued that these measures are aimed at reducing the risk of forced marriages to foreign women.
The most controversial measure has been the one requiring spouses of foreign origin who apply for a family reunification visa to prove they possess basic German language skills prior to immigration. Yet many spouses were exempted from this requirement, such as those of high-skilled workers, researchers and refugees and those people who have a ”œlow integration need.” These exceptions to the rule made the de facto target of this measure persons of Turkish origin or per- sons from Muslim countries, and Turkish immigrant organizations have asserted it as discriminatory.
As a consequence, they have decid- ed to boycott the second integration summit in July 2007, even though, paradoxically, that summit introduced the National Integration Plan to which they had largely contributed. The plan was debated and devised mutually by the state and immigrant communities and was the result of a year-long con- sultation process between the govern- ment, host-civil-society and immigrants. It was launched by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, in July 2006. And it is a good example of what we might expect from a two-way integration process. The consultation concluded with a 200-page publication with over 400 commitments that civil society and government agreed to pursue, among them these: increase the number of hours of language course instruction for immigrants from 600 to 900 hours; form a network of tutoring programs for children of immigrant origin; improve immigrants’ access to vocational training; and work harder to prevent forced marriages.
This one example is indicative of the current integration debate in Germany. Namely, the attitude to integration has often swung from one of mutual accom- modation to one of one-way demands placed on immigrants. A further example of this oscillation is the German Islam Conference and the debate on school teachers wearing the hijab.
In Germany, the Islam Conference has been intrumental in framing the inte- gration debate through mutual accom- modation and dialogue. The Interior Minister, Dr. Wolfgang SchaÌˆuble, initiat- ed the conference in September 2006, the first such undertaking in German history, and has included associations at lower, less visible levels of cooperation. Ministerial appointees representing ”œmodern” or ”œsecular” strands of contemporary Islam have joined the associ- ation leaders representing the huge majority of non-confessional Muslim organizations in Germany.
The long-term goal of the Islam Conference is to improve the integration of Muslims; indeed, the Interior Minister formally stated that Islam is a part of Germany. One additional goal was to address their institutional repre- sentation. Unlike Christian and Jewish communities, Muslim communities have no designated central governing body to undertake dialogue on their behalf with state authorities. Not only is this disadvantageous for the German government, but it also prohibits Muslim communities from obtaining privileges. According to German laws, when a religious community is granted the status of a ”œpublic body” it can receive tax breaks, the right to levy a religious tax and other privileges.
Another key reason for the German government’s initiating this dialogue has been its concern that foreign- trained imams, if they follow a foreign political agenda of their own, could fos ter a potential for fomenting cultural and political conflicts. Rather than imposing measures onto the Muslim communities, the Interior Ministry has engaged in dialogue with them in search of common solutions. The German Islam Conference has integrated representatives of the LaÌˆnder (state level) and the communities into common dialogue with the government.
This dialogue could lead the government and Muslim communities to design local German theological seminaries for imams and to thus diminish the demand for foreign- trained imams. Another objective is to design standardized courses on Islam for public schools in German. All in all, the conference has already led to an increased dialogue, sense of under- standing and security. That was not so much the case with the debate over the hijab at school.
Rules that apply to government employees while they are on the job can be limited in comparison with the same individual’s basic rights as a private person. In Germany, most teachers are employees of the state. Recently, the German integration debate focused on teachers’ rights to wear religious symbols in the class- room. More specifically, the debate centred on the legality of teachers to wear the hijab at work.
Stemming from a court case, the debate erupted in a large public discourse in 2003. It focused not only on the religious freedom of teachers, but also on the visibility of Islam, especial- ly by way of headscarves and mosques. The case went to the German Federal Constitutional Court when Muslim teacher Fereshta Ludin was denied a teaching position in the state of Baden- WuÌˆrttemberg because she had made it clear that she would not remove her hijab at work. The state school author- ities in Stuttgart argued that Ms. Ludin would not have a ”œneutral” standing with her students if she wore the hijab while teaching. State-level school authorities argued further that govern- ment employees should have ”œneutrality” in the eyes of their students, otherwise they would contribute to dis- integration. The state authorities deemed Ms. Ludin to ”œlack personal qualification” for the job because she insisted on wearing the hijab in the classroom.
Lower courts confirmed the deci- sion of the state education authorities in Baden-WuÌˆrttemberg, but the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Ms. Ludin’s basic rights had been violated through the education authority’s decision not to employ her. However, the Court also stated that the unconstitu- tionality of the lower court’s ruling rest- ed not with the basic rights secured by the Federal Constitution. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Ms. Ludin’s rights were violated only because there was no state law that pro- hibited teachers from wearing the hijab.
Since responsibility over education policy lies with the federal states in Germany, this ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court led a number of states to introduce a ban on particular non-Christian religious symbols and with them the hijab. The ban applies only to teachers who are state employ- ees and not to students. It does not carry over into either the private sector or to general public life.
However, the issue remains a source of irregular statute from state to state and case to case. Generally, the northern part of Germany has refrained from enacting state regula- tion for teachers wearing religious sym- bols, while the southern states have mostly passed legislation banning this practice, but with some variations in content and practice. For example, in the same state of Baden-WuÌˆrttemberg a school teacher won a court case that allowed her to cover her hair while on the job, as long as the shape of this cov- ering was cap-like, because this type of cover does not equate to a religious symbol. The hair cover was not allowed to extend to the teacher’s neck.
For Germany, Canada is a model of successful integration with well- planned, prolonged and structured immigration policies. The Canadian points system for selecting immi- grants is one example of this. In comparison to Germany, which still maintains its 1973 stop on labour yet allows over 30 exemptions to this rule, Canada serves as an alternative model for structuring labour migra- tion. Another example of Canada’s function as a role model for German immigration reform is Canada’s success at fostering the integration of second-generation immigrants, espe- cially through the education system and by providing younger generations with equal opportunities regard- less of their origin.
These examples have provoked much thought among German policy- makers. Yet until now, little actual leg- islative reform has resulted from it. Germany has reformed its immigration and integration laws twice this century, greatly improving integration through the introduction of integra- tion courses for newcomers. But in the areas of labour and education, the German government has remained resistant to implementing reform.
Despite this good record, recent developments over the ”œreasonable” accommodation of reli- gious minorities show that Canada also oscillates between a two-way integration process and a one-way process as exemplified by two recent controversies.
The first was prompted by the case of an Orthodox Sikh child, who in 2002 was banned from carrying a kirpan to school. Canada’s Supreme Court overturned this ban last year. The ban was ruled to be a violation of the right to religious freedom.
The kirpan is one of five religious symbols that baptized Orthodox Sikhs must wear at all times. The debate in Canada inquired if the freedom of religion was an absolute right or if it had internal limits. These limits were weighed against general public safety concerns.
The Canadian Supreme Court decided that the Orthodox Sikh stu- dent’s carrying of a concealed kirpan did not endanger the ”œreasonable” safety of students at the school. The Court differentiated between the highest degree of safety and reason- able safety in its decision. One argu- ment it produced was that scissors and other objects could also be used as a weapon at schools and that the individual’s concealed kirpan did not represent a safety threat greater than that of other objects present at the school.
This ruling is a good example of ”œmutual accommodation” as laid out in the European CBPs because it demonstrated the ability of the Canadian Supreme Court to examine the meaning of the kirpan from the viewpoint of the person carrying it. The significance of the kirpan for the carrier was then weighed against the safety of all persons. The meaning of the kirpan was not judged merely on the uninformed view.
In contrast to this is the code of conduct adopted by the small Canadian town of Hérouxville. As a type of pre-emptive action, the city defined a set of practices it deemed to be unsuitable for life in the commu- nity. The stoning of women or burn- ing a woman alive was deemed unacceptable behaviour, as was geni- tal mutilation, for example. Carrying a weapon to school (even if the weapon was a religious symbol), accommodating for prayer in school or covering one’s face in public are also non-permissible actions accord- ing to the code of conduct.
The code of conduct provides a misguided context for the public debate on integration for four reasons. First, it mixes issues of illegal behaviour with those that fall under indi- vidual religious freedom. Second, it includes behaviour that is outlawed and addressed by law, such as burning or stoning a person, and con- nects this behaviour to immigrants. Third, certain points of the code of con- duct limit only the legal religious or cultural practice of non-Christians and are therefore discriminatory in nature. Fourth, it neglects to address conduct that is mutually respectful and of central importance to societal cohesion. For example, it does not address the equal rights of persons of all religions and gender. It does not address the respect for the fundamental freedoms of all persons.
The example of Hérouxville is not exemplary of the integration debate in Canada. It does, however, touch on some fears in the non-immigrant pop- ulation regarding integration. It also highlights the continued need for pro- moting a two-way immigration debate concerning religious freedoms and social cohesion.
Integration is not an option; it is a vital component of current Canadian and German societies and a building block for future societies. Both Canada and Germany have made progress in fostering societal integration, yet in both countries and to various extents, the integration debate varies from one of a two-way process to one of a one-way, demand-based debate.
What Germany can learn from Canada is to look beyond the vantage point of the non-immigrant society. Germany can also continue to learn from Canada’s proactive approach to structuring the immigration process, especially practice regarding the labour market. Although Canada has not devised a perfect formula for non-discriminatory integration of ethnic minorities into the labour market, it does have clear rules for the admission of labour migrants. Germany has yet to revise its 1973 stop on labour migration and can learn from the Canadian points system’s contribution to integration via the labour market. Furthermore, Germany can learn from the Canadian education system’s vitality and ability to offer equal opportunities to students, regardless of their immigrant or non-immigrant origin. Canada’s measurable success at providing immigrants with more equal opportunities through education ”” as demonstrated by its score in the PISA study (the Programme for International Student Achievement), for instance ”” has already had an impact on the German debate on education and integration.
What Canada has incorporated into its own national dialogue, it can find reinforced in the European and German integration debates: mutual accommodation. After all, establishing a set of common principles and setting a sustainable context for inte- gration is a keystone for the integration process.
We must increase global cohesion because to do so is in the self-interest of every person. Individual identity today is more dynamic and elastic than in past decades. At the same time, diversity is also ubiquitous, challenging patterns of traditional identity among established populations. It is important to keep in mind that how we define ourselves is not static; our self-definition varies from context to context. We need others in order to be our- selves and others need us for the same reasons. The interaction of self and other has to be one of inclusion and not exclusion. The future, after all, belongs to all our children and not to just those with a particular citizenship.