Berlin: Germany and Turkey has crossed
swords over the language spoken by the large Turkish minority
in Germany as a debate over integration continued to rage in
Europe`s most populous country.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan fanned the
flames when he told members of Germany`s 2.5-million-strong
Turkish minority that their children should learn Turkish
ahead of learning German.
"Our children have to learn German, but first they
must learn Turkish," Erdogan said in a speech in the western
city of Duesseldorf late Sunday.
Later yesterday, Chancellor Angela Merkel responded,
saying Turks had to learn German in order to be able to
contribute to society.
"The German language is so important in order to have
an opportunity to participate in social life in Germany," she
said, as she opened a trade fair in Hanover, northern Germany,
"We want our citizens with a Turkish background to
make a contribution to society and to participate in its
wealth," added the chancellor to sustained applause.
Merkel`s comments followed a more robust response from
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle who insisted that "children
who grow up in Germany have to learn German first of all."
The secretary general of the Bavarian sister party to
Merkel`s Christian Democrats went further, calling for the
Turkish ambassador in Germany to be summoned for a dressing
"Erdogan`s speech has set back our integration efforts
in Germany by years," the Die Welt daily quoted Alexander
Dobrindt as saying on its website.
Erdogan caused a similar storm in nearby Cologne in
2008 when he said that assimilation, which he defined as a
person being "forced" to abandon their culture, was a "crime
Germany has been wracked by a debate on immigration
since last August, when a member of the central bank sparked
outrage by saying the country was being made "more stupid" by
poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.
The banker, Thilo Sarrazin, resigned but his book --
"Germany Does Itself In" -- flew off the shelves to top
best-seller lists, and polls showed considerable sympathy for
some of his views.