Germany, Turkey pledge to work on the integration of immigrants
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged Saturday to do more to improve the integration record of Germany's 2.5-million-strong Turkish minority. Germany plans to use celebrations next October of the 50th anniversary of a key immigration agreement on Gastarbeiter ("guest workers") between Germany and Turkey to "take stock," Merkel said after talks with Erdogan. "We propose that everywhere in cities and towns where there are people of Turkish origin, we use this event as a way of taking stock and seeing where we are and what has to be done," Merkel told reporters. "There are clear problems still which we want to solve when it comes to integration." Erdogan said he would attend events marking the anniversary of the 1961 agreement, which saw West Germany allow in large numbers of Turkish immigrants to provide workers for its postwar "economic miracle." Many stayed, and the size of the minority was made clear on Friday night in a football match between Germany and Turkey in Berlin where half of the 74,000 fans were Turkey supporters. German-born ethnic Turk Mesut Ozil sealed Germany's 3-0 victory with his 79th-minute goal. Erdogan reiterated controversial comments from a speech two years ago that assimilation, or a person being "forced" to abandon their culture and traditions, is a "crime against humanity." But he stressed that integration into another society is a different matter. "I am of course in favor of people of Turkish origin here in Germany integrating, for their own happiness, and for the happiness and future of German society," Erdogan said. "And if they have been in Germany for 50 years, then this is obviously required, so that people can live together peacefully." Merkel also said she would visit Cyprus in January to offer Germany's help in resolving an impasse holding up security cooperation and Turkey joining the European Union. "This will be an opportunity for me to see if Germany can play a helpful role in resolving" the difficulties there, Merkel said after talks with Erdogan in Berlin. Erdogan said progress toward Turkey joining the EU "should not slow down," and he had asked Merkel for Germany's support. Merkel reiterated her position that the process has an "open end." The Cyprus situation is "important for us all, primarily in issues of security cooperation between NATO and the EU. Both sides have an interest in this, but of course there has to be movement on both sides," Merkel said.