In an address to the Christian Democratic Union on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to limit the flow of refugees entering the country, addressing critics in her own party who have questioned her decision to open Germany’s borders.
As a top economic and political power, Germany has a “humanitarian imperative” to accept people fleeing turmoil in Syria, Merkel said. Yet after accepting roughly 1 million refugees so far this year, she added that the country must now “noticeably reduce” the number of new arrivals.
In comments The Guardian translated into English, Merkel said refugees will have to make an effort to assimilate into German society. She also dismissed the idea of multiculturalism, which in parts of Europe is associated with a policy of encouraging distinct cultural groups to live in separate communities.
“Those who seek refuge with us also have to respect our laws and traditions, and learn to speak German,” she said. “Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies, and therefore multiculturalism remains a grand delusion.”
Merkel’s sentiments are neither new nor unexpected. In 2011, the Netherlands abandoned a policy of multiculturalism that allowed separate ethnic communities to live side by side without integration efforts.
At a speech she gave to her party in 2010, Merkel said immigrants were welcome in Germany — but they should be prepared to adapt.
“The approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other … has failed, utterly failed,” she said at the time.
If I am not mistaken, multiculturalism highlights the best of everyone’s culture. It doesn’t divide and separate. In our country, immigrants tend to assimilate at least within a generation. No one forces them to assimilate, they just do. It’s more comfortable and more economically empowering.
We do not encourage different cultures to live separately. Nothing about multiculturalism celebrates one over the other. In schools, it is a time of unity, when everyone brings in a food dish, or wears traditional national dress. People from one region might do a regional dance, or celebrate the heroes. It’s not like Merkel describes in Germany.
Maybe the United States should be the model for multiculturalism. We certainly have been the great melting pot. Europe, on the other hand, is known for being tribal and homogeneous. Most of us speak English after a generation, albeit different dialects depending on the region.
Perhaps it was a mistake to take in a million people. That just isn’t realistic in a country the size of Germany. These European countries that have been so over-run with refugees should be forming a coalition with us to stomp out ISIS, end that civil war and return the people to their homeland. We all have a vested interest.