First Integration Summit and the Passage of the National Integration Plan

2006 — 2007

Germany

Discrimination & Inequity Identity & Belonging

On July 14, 2006, Germany’s first Integration Summit takes place under the auspices of the SPD-CDU coalition government, with education forming the central topic of discussion. A dialogue is held with migrant representatives from within civil society, politics and the media, resulting in the drafting of a National Integration Plan.

At the first summit meeting, six working groups were set up to address respectively the following topics: (1) integration courses, (2) promotion of the German language, (3) the securing of educational and work opportunities, (4) the life situation and equal rights of women and girls, (5) integration, and (6) the strengthening of citizenship and civil society. It was agreed that within a year a National Integration Plan would be drafted including 400 measures designed to ensure better “integration” of migrants.

This plan was in no small part the result of a long-running debate in Germany on the issues of “integration”, a German “primary” or “dominant culture” to which one ought to subscribe, and so-called “parallel societies”, in which it is assumed that elementary “cultural” differences prevail that allegedly hinder the “integration” particularly of Turkish or Muslim immigrants. However, issues such as the responsibilities of the majority population and the structural disadvantages which migrants face were pushed into the background. Migrant associations nonetheless regarded the summit as a historically important moment of acknowledgement, in which the German government took a clear stance in recognizing Germany’s reality as a country of immigration.

However, when the German government amended federal alien legislation in 2007, introducing, among other changes, a citizenship test [see: Introduction of the citizenship test, 2008] and mandatory language testing for women immigrating from Turkey to join their families, several major Turkish-German organizations resolved to boycott the upcoming second Integration Summit. They rejected being used as part of a “symbolic politics” that failed to address their actual needs or allow them genuine input into governmental policy-making.

Alongside the Summit, the first German Islam Conference (DIK) was convened in 2006, bringing together representatives of 15 Muslim organizations as well as numerous individuals. The DIK continues to convene annually and is affiliated with the German Federal Ministry of the Interior. Here too the main emphasis is placed on the “integration” of Muslims in Germany. In the years that followed, participant organizations increasingly protested that the dialogue was not being held on equal footing and that they did not feel regarded as equal partners with legitimate concerns. In 2013 it was additionally proposed that the DIK be decoupled from the Ministry of the Interior. Organizations have pointed out that this association has only reinforced the focus on issues pertaining to security policy (“Islamicization”, terrorism) in this context, which were pursued and emphasized particularly by former Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter-Friedrich (CSU), and has thus contributed to the stigmatization of Muslims living in Germany.