Immigration and homeland security challenges facing Germany
On March 27, GMF, in cooperation with the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation, hosted Joachim Herrmann (CSU), the interior minister of the Free State of Bavaria, for a luncheon presentation and discussion entitled "Immigration and homeland security challenges facing Germany." Mr. Ulf Gartzke, head of the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation in Washington, DC, introduced the speaker and Dr. Stephen Szabo, executive director of the Transatlantic Academy at GMF, moderated the discussion.
In his presentation, Minister Herrmann claimed that integration of immigrants is important for both societal cohesion and homeland security in Germany. He advocated for active government policies to guide effective integration, which he defined as immigrants' desire and ability to learn German and respect Germany's legal and constitutional order without limitations. The Minister used the example of the 2005 riots in the Parisian suburbs to point out that cohabitation of immigrants and natives can be problematic if integration is not successful.
The Minister stressed Germany's great concern for home-grown terrorism. He pointed to the often hidden threat of young Muslim immigrants who seem to be integrated into society, but are actually living lives parallel to mainstream society. Such young immigrants are in danger of being influenced by fundamentalist ideology and are susceptible to being recruited as suicide bombers.
During the question and answer session following the presentation, issues of security were the first to come up. When asked about the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Germany, the Minister replied that the danger of such attack is greater in Germany than it is in the United States. He cited news of recently prevented attacks that would have targeted Rammstein Air Base and Frankfurt Airport, pointing to them as evidence that terrorist cells are choosing targets on German soil. The Minister said that Germany should recognize three distinct groups of potential terrorists. First are those composed of al-Qaida members coming from Pakistan to perpetrate attacks; second are Europeans who have fought in Pakistan and returned with violent ideas; and third are Germans who have converted to fundamentalist Muslim ideology and fallen away from mainstream society.
Finally, the last part of the discussion focused on the questionable ability of immigrants to integrate into German society. The audience was particularly concerned with understanding German society's willingness to integrate foreigners, as well as what steps the German government does and might take to aid this process. Specifically, the Minister was asked to what extent German "Leitkultur" (leading culture) is still relevant, given the recent government mandate that German teachers include Islam in their curriculum. In response, he conceded that "Multi-Kulti" (the idea of embracing different cultures) has gained momentum, but he also reiterated his assertion that immigrants should respect and adapt to German culture and law.