Foreigners have failed to integrate says Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel's declaration that Germany's attempts to build a multicultural society had "utterly failed" is feeding a growing debate over how to deal with the millions of foreigners who call the country home.
Merkel told a weekend meeting of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union that while immigrants are welcome in Germany, they must learn the language and accept the country's cultural norms.
She was sounding a note heard increasingly across Europe as it battles an economic slump and worries about homegrown terrorism.
"This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and live happily with each other has failed. Utterly failed," Merkel said.
Some Germans in cosmopolitan Berlin argued she was out of touch with the country's daily life.
"I think her statement is very black and white and does not reflect honestly the lifestyle people are living here," said Daniela Jonas, a German in the city's diverse Kreuzberg district, where immigrants and native-born Germans live among each other.
Merkel has long been sceptical of the country's attempts to build a multicultural society that includes its estimated five million Muslims.
Many immigrants speak little or no German, work in low paying jobs or live off government handouts at the same time the country faces an ageing population and a shortage of highly skilled workers.
"Germany needs more qualified immigration to maintain its economic advantage and deal with the demographic developments," Volker Beck, a lawmaker with the opposition Greens party said Sunday.
A European Championship football qualifier between Germany and Turkey last week reflected built-up tensions. Star Germany player Mesut Oezil, who is of Turkish heritage, was whistled and booed throughout the game by Turkey fans -- who outnumbered German supporters in Berlin.