Posted on April 6, 2007

Language Requirement ‘Against Human Rights’

Der Spiegel (Germany), April 5, 2007

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül has criticized a new German immigration law which requires spouses to have a certain level of German before they are allowed into the country. He also emphasized that Turkish entry into the EU is not automatic and that Europe shouldn’t fear Turkey.

Turkey has criticized a German draft immigration law which stipulates that if spouses wish to join their partners in Germany they have to possess a basic proficiency in the German language.

In an interview in Thursday’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper the Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, said “I wish that all Turks in Germany could speak German. But making it compulsory is against human rights. And it doesn’t solve the problem.”

The German cabinet approved the new immigration bill in March, but it still has to be approved by the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. Among other measures, the law stipulates that in the case of immigrating spouses, the person coming to Germany must be at least 18 years old and be able to speak at least basic German. The government says it wants to improve the integration of foreigners, while also attempting to reduce the number of forced and fake marriages.

Addressing the issue of Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union, Gül said that he didn’t consider Turkish accession to be “automatic.” He said Europe should not fear Turkey and that on some issues the country was further ahead than a few EU member states. He pointed, for example, to the Maastricht criteria which determine a member state’s eligibility for the euro. Turkey, he said, had already fulfilled the five benchmarks.

Gül was quick to praise the current German EU presidency. “Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, supports us. We now hope for some progress in the negotiations with the EU.”

However, the minister was critical of the decision not to invite Turkey to the EU’s 50th anniversary celebrations in March. “It says something about Europe’s vision.”

Enthusiasm for the EU has dropped significantly in Turkey, he said. He put this down to the tone of the debate within Europe about Turkey, which many Turkish people find offensive.

Gül met with his German counterpart in Berlin on Tuesday and after the meeting Steinmeier said that there was movement again on a possible entry of Turkey into the EU. The two men talked about the possibility of opening further chapters in the accession talks between Brussels and Ankara.

Turkish EU membership talks had been partially suspended for eight of the 35 accession chapters in December 2006, due to Turkey’s reluctance to open up its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus. Brussels gave the green light to open one of those chapterson enterprise and industrial policywith Turkey last week.

At the news conference after the meeting Gül said “Turkey always appreciated support of Germany . . . when Turkey-EU relations are in question.”