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“We kidded ourselves a while,” Merkel told younger members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party earlier this month in Potsdam, the BBC reported.
In the early 1960s, Germany’s government called for foreign workers to enter the country but perhaps didn’t really believe they would stay, Merkel said.
“We said, ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone,’” she said. “But this isn’t reality.”
“We kidded ourselves a while. … We said, ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone.’ But this isn’t reality.”
— Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Associated Press)
But the idea of having people from different backgrounds “live side-by-side” hasn’t worked, she added – and more Germans seem to agree. About a third of the country believes Germany has been “overrun by foreigners,” a recent survey suggests, according to the BBC.
The change in attitudes is forcing Merkel to take a tougher stand on immigrants who don’t make an effort to blend into German society, Reuters reported.
But although she called for greater assimilation, Merkel made clear that immigrants remain welcome in Germany.
“We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don’t speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here,” she said, according to the BBC.
Debate in the country has been further fueled by former central banker Thilo Sarrazin, who argues in a book that Muslim immigrants have lowered the intelligence of German society, Reuters reported.
Sarrazin drew blowback for his views, including an ouster from the Bundesbank, but the book has been popular and polls show many Germans agree with him, the report said.
Still, Merkel made it a point in Potsdam to say she agreed with German President Christian Wulff, who argued that Islam was “part of Germany,” like Christianity and Judaism, the BBC said.