Türkiye Cumhuriyeti

Berlin Başkonsolosluğu

Konuşma Metinleri

Integration of Turkish Migrants in the German Society, 17.12.2011

Integration of Turkish Migrants in the German Society

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear Guests, distinguished contributors,

I would like to thank the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy for inviting me to deliver this lecture. I will first try to dwell on Turkish-German relations and later integration of Turkish migrants in the German Society.

Turkish-German relations are historic and intense in almost every field. The frequency of high level visits, contacts between the civil society, human bonds between our two nations, economic and commercial relations all point to a special relationship.

Turkey and Germany share similar strategic interests in international relations. Our cooperation in different parts of the world is growing. Turkey and Germany consult each other in almost every field. Regardless of the political hurdles for Turkey in her EU accession process, Germany is one of the countries that officially support our EU negotiation process. German EU Presidency period was one the most efficient in terms of technical advancement of Turkey’s EU process.

Approximately 2.9 million Turkish citizens and Turks of German citizenship live in Germany. 4.3 million German citizens visited Turkey in 2010. This figure could exceed 5 million in 2011. About 60.000 Germans live in Turkey permanently, who enjoy participation in local administration.

Germany is the biggest trade partner of Turkey and also the biggest export market for Turkish products.

In 2010, the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Germany increased by approximately 20 percent reaching to 26 billion Euros.

This figure in the first 4 months of 2011 increased by 43 percent compared to the same period of last year. Within this period Turkey's exports to Germany grew by 30 percent, whereas its imports grew by 52 percent. Trade balance has been in favor of Germany for a long time.

During the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, relations between the Ottoman Empire and Prussia were close. During the Second World War, Turkey welcomed thousands of German academics and scientists, whom contributed greatly to the development of Turkish academia and intellectual, cultural life.

Due to our history, political, economic, commercial, financial, cultural and social relations, Turkey and Germany will continue to be important partners.

German companies have a significant share in foreign investments in Turkey. Currently the number of German companies in Turkey exceeds 4.300, which places Germany at the top of the investing countries in Turkey.

Around 70 thousand Turkish-German small and medium size businesses in Germany employ approximately 350 thousand people and generate revenues worth 30 billion Euros.

The presence of a large Turkish community in Germany, the large number of German tourists annually visiting Turkey and the rising number of Germans living in Turkey add a special and strong human bond and intensify our ties.

We believe that Turkish citizens and German citizens of Turkish origin living in Germany enrich our relations.

We want and encourage them to participate fully in the social, economic and political life in Germany as responsible and committed individuals and citizens.

We are well aware of the importance of a good education for successful integration. On our side, we support our people to be better educated and trained. This is a priority for us.

Learning German is also a priority for us. For those who wish to stay and live in Germany, learning German is a prerequisite. As much as we emphasize the importance of learning German, we put emphasis on learning the mother tongue Turkish, as children tend to learn easier another language after learning their mother tongue.

We encourage families to send their children to kindergarten at an early age, preferably not later than 3-4 years of age so that their kids start to learn German so as to be ready for a successful primary education.

We think that the integration of Turkish citizens to German society is at a far better level than assumed or projected. A good example is that 10 German citizens of Turkish origin were elected to the State Parliament of Berlin recently. Berlin Senate has a lady Senator and a lady State Secretary of Turkish origin.

Previously two other states in Germany appointed lady Senators of Turkish origin. Two major political parties of Germany have high level politicians of Turkish origin, and many political parties have many members of Turkish origin contributing to their activities.

When we look more carefully we could see that successful integration has happened millions of times in Germany, as described by some German politicians.

We do not deny or ignore certain problems of integration, but the situation is much better than that some media and some circles like to picture.

On 30th October, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Labor Agreement between Germany and Turkey, which provided us with an opportunity to show the contribution of immigration both to Turkey and Germany.

This commemoration has been an opportunity for us in Turkey to evaluate, reconsider and better understand this process, as well.

Becoming more familiar with the process during the past 3 years of my tenure as Consul General in Berlin, I would like share some more observations and information with you.

Turks started to come to Germany in the early 1960’s to save enough money to buy a house, a farm, a tractor or collect seed money for a small business. Their intention was to return to Turkey after 2-3 years of stay in Germany.

They worked in the worst jobs that no one wanted to work or there was no willingness to do on the part of the local population.

These jobs were mostly hard labor, hand work and required long hours of physical hard work. Due to these circumstances most of them have serious health problems today.

Contrary to the public image, early comers from Turkey were skilled work force. Their success and hard working encouraged Germany to invite more of them to come and work for the German wirtschaftswunder.

Since they were regarded as temporary, they were only provided with the opportunity of hard working and living in special heimats allocated for them.

Writers like Günter Wallraff well documented the abuses and hardships endured by the Turkish immigrant workers. His well-known book “Ganz Unten-Lowest of the Low" from 1985 documented Wallraff's posing as a Turkish guest worker, and the mistreatment he received in that role at the hands of employers, landlords and etc.

The numbers of Turkish immigrant workers grew and the need for them increased when the German economy was booming. After some time, being Mediterranean and having strong ties to the family, the first generation (we call the early comers as such) decided to bring their spouses and children to stay with them, since temporariness was giving way to permanency.

So a situation which was planned to be temporary was unintentionally becoming permanent, for the immigrants themselves, for Germany and for Turkey.

As in most cases of unpreparedness, this complex social phenomenon posed risks and problems for all parties involved.

Germany until mid 1990’s did not think that the immigrants would be permanent. Turkish immigrants were gastarbeiters. And most of all, Germany did not regard itself as an immigrant nation for a long time, may be even today. Thus, until recent past, there was very limited or no infrastructure for a successful integration policy to be implemented.

On the part of Turkey, it was able to export its excess work force, to an allied country which needed labor. With this step it was possible to decrease unemployment rate in Turkey and finally Turkey was happy to receive the remittances of these gastarbeiters, which was much needed at the time of economic hardship and the first petroleum crisis.

However, neither Germany nor Turkey felt the need to invest enough to satisfy the social and human needs of Turkish immigrants for years. Their temporariness was an excuse for a long time for not doing enough, however after having understood that they were going to stay, and probably become permanent, we still can’t claim that enough has been done.

Teaching German to the first generation for example was never on the agenda, which obviously is an important key for success in all fields of life and for a successful integration to happen.

In the example of Berlin, during the times when the Berlin Wall separated the two sides, Turks were pushed to live on the border areas like Kreuzberg and Neukölln. They usually did not have the chance to live in better neighborhoods.

One can think that this was and may be still is due to their economic status, but a more responsible and visionary approach would have given them the opportunity through convenient rental subsidies to live in better accommodation and in better areas. This would have decreased the rate of living in ghettos, as the immigrant population would be more evenly distributed in the city and mix and mingle better with the locals and finally adapt better.

In discussing integration, I think we should not miss the security aspect of it. For integration to take place the immigrant should feel himself or herself secure and in peace.

Unfortunately as the so called racist terror has demonstrated to us all, immigrants have not been in full safety in Germany. There have been many cases of fires, arsons, and murders. The numbers present a gloomy picture in this sense. Coincidentally, it was recently discovered that 10 people; 8 of them being Turkish were murdered in an organized way over a long period of time.

It seems the assumed perpetrators of these crimes were so much out of control that they were captured only after several high profile bank robberies in a relatively small and less populated area of Germany.

It is particularly worrying that former East German states, where the least number of immigrants live can be particularly problematic in terms of racism. Some segments of the society, despite the fact that they have not been in contact with any foreigners or immigrants, can be reactive to people who may look different.

When we consider the fact that the world as a whole and Europe in particular is undergoing an economic and financial crisis which may last for at least a decade, we genuinely worry that racism, discrimination and intolerance may rise in Europe in the medium run.

There is not a day that passes without such incidents; like the Breivik tragedy in Norway, latest incident of shooting and bombing in Belgium, recent attacks on the Africans and non-Europeans in Italy and etc.

Since the last 15 months or so, we have recorded 115 arsons or fires in the immigrant districts of Berlin. They may be purely coincidental, but certain signs have been common in these incidents; like burning the baby carriages in apartment halls, burning paper or recycled material or furniture left in front of the buildings and etc.

Some buildings were attacked by unknown arsonists for 4 times in a row in 6 months. You can imagine the psychology of the immigrant families living in such places.

We are encouraged by the high level German reaction and the promises made by the high authorities to uncover these racist terror crimes; however families of the victims have been waiting for too long for justice to happen. We shall be following closely the developments in this regard. We were encouraged by the reactions of the local people in some cities in Germany to express their solidarity with the victims and their families.

In the face of these events, I think we may like to look more carefully to the case of a German banker, who decided to put on the table a book full of raw social argumentations, which commercially made him a Euro millionaire, despite that fact that his profession is not sociology or immigration policies, but finance and banking.

Perceived general acceptance of such ideas by the wider public disturbed very much immigrant communities, mostly the Turks and Germans of Turkish origin. To our dismay, such ideas bring racist and discriminatory ideas to the center of politics and society. In such an atmosphere, racist ideas can be reflected more comfortably, which is a real danger for an open and democratic society.

The writer probably underestimated the damage he might have given to the good international image of Germany by such a book. But when we consider the rise of racism and discrimination in Europe, may be many people in other parts of Europe also share such ideas.

We may establish links with these problems and 9/11, general situation in the EU, in the Middle East, economic, financial hardships and crises, consequent unemployment, too much and too fast globalization process, which left many behind even in the developed world in wondering whether this process has been beneficial for them at all.

But for example globalization in itself is a Western, developed world product. While turning the whole world into a global village, it strengthened the traditional powers of Asia, as well. When global capitalism started moving its production centers for more profit to Asia, ancient civilizations of this old continent were poised to claim back their old statuses as ancient power houses that were once potent to shape the world. A new recalibration is taking place globally and the balance has already tilted to the East, to Asia.

If today we could consider at least partly that racism, discrimination and xenophobia are fed by reactions to this general phenomenon then we could think that western societies may be in betrayal of their own ideals and values.

Coming back to the more local component of this general phenomenon; on Turkish immigrant’s integration in the German society, I would like to echo that integration is a two lane street, whereby the immigrant and the receiving society should have willingness to accept each other.

The framework for such a relationship should be based on universal human rights, the right to exist, democracy, pluralism and other modern western values devised for the dignity of the human.

A welcoming atmosphere on the receiving end, would certainly contribute to a better understanding.

But, when there is a serious threat to the security and well being of an individual, when there is constant testing to prove oneself in all aspects of daily life, when there is no equal opportunity for education, for jobs, for decent accommodation, then integration can only have a shallow basis to succeed.

Instead of understanding the immigrant people directly from themselves, sometimes we see that in Germany some so called experts are too high in demand by the press, by the TVs, as their deeply critical views of the immigrants bode well with a general prejudice.

Indeed, such experts’ press, TV supported views feed and grow prejudices. In my view, this approach also does not help good integration, and can even contribute to popularization of racist, discriminatory xenophobic ideas.

We have talked enough of problems. Now I would like to turn to success stories, which are barely visible to most of us most of the time.

Ladies and gentlemen, after 50 years of immigration, we have a different picture in front of us. As I mentioned above, 70 thousand Turkish-German small and medium size businesses in Germany employ thousands of people and generate revenues of 30 billion Euros.

Turks are active in all walks of life in Germany. From the lowest of the low backgrounds, they have managed to become academics, business persons, politicians, writers, artists, musicians, doctors, film directors, sportsmen and sportswomen, bankers, lawyers, restaurant-hotel chain owners. Some are quite big investors and entrepreneurs.

You may be surprised to hear that in Berlin many Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Spanish and international restaurants are owned by Turks or Germans of Turkish origin. This should give you the idea of the spirit of an immigrant, whom might have come to Germany with nothing, but so determined to succeed in his or her new country and contribute to it.

May be immigrant spirit is needed to alleviate current economic and financial problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, Germany has a good pool of highly educated, well disciplined, dedicated and hard working immigrant young population which demands more from the society. They want more responsibility and more participation.

Participation has become the key word and it should over time replace integration, as younger generation of Turks or Turks of German origin believe that they have come a long way from integration, and now is the time for better participation in all fields of life.

If this somehow does not materialize, then we could see the already existing trend to leave Germany for better prospects in other countries like USA, Canada or Turkey could be further strengthened.

Let me note that last year, around 40.000 Turks left Germany, while approximately 30.000 Turks arrived. It is estimated that there is an out flux of Turkish immigrant talent from Germany.

To conclude, I would like to say the following: The path that the general discussion and policies on immigration take is important. The past shadowy path that led the whole world to disaster during the last century must be avoided. The uphill, cloudy, sometimes chilly but potentially shiny, brave new path friendly to immigration and based on multicultural democratic values must be chosen.

This choice would determine whether immigrant people would feel confident enough to carry on and to continue to contribute or give up on their ideals; those very ideals that originally belong to the West.

I thank you for your patience, and I am ready for an interactive discussion with you.