Language as a foundation stone for integration
As a rule, integration begins with learning the language of the new country. As chair, Minister of State Michael Roth thus focused discussions on teaching language skills and values at the first meeting of the Integration Council.
“All people in our country have to recognise and respect our values, rules and traditions. They need to learn German. Those who don’t use their integration opportunities, those who don’t engage in training, those who don’t want to work here cannot be part of our society. But integration is of course not a one-way street. It does not just impose an obligation on migrants to put down roots here without having to completely give up their identity. The majority population also needs to open up and change,” Roth emphasised.
As much diversity as possible, as much common ground as necessary
The Franco-German Integration Council is to facilitate exchange of the different experiences in the two countries concerning the integration of migrants, identify successful strategies and provide impetus for European cooperation. The discussions are also to focus on integration obstacles and how to overcome them.
“Germany and France have a long tradition as countries of immigration. Europe is a migration continent. With the Franco-German Integration Council, the two countries want to promote a Europe of diversity. We need to make sure that you can be different without being fearful. However, we need to make clear what we need for peaceful, respectful and successful co-existence in our societies. In a nutshell, as much diversity as possible, as much common ground as necessary,” as Minister of State Roth said after the meeting.
Key points on the agenda in the next three years include education and equal opportunities, integration into the labour market, as well as combating discrimination and radicalisation. Promoting social cohesion, accommodation and urban policy questions are also to be discussed.
Taking off the blinkers
Minister of State Roth underscored: “One of the strengths of the Franco-German Integration Council is that it can openly and critically combine different perspectives. Only if we take off the blinkers and look beyond our national borders will we be able to promote European solutions. And we urgently need momentum for European solutions in order to finally put Europe’s duty to demonstrate solidarity into practice.”
Recommendations for the Franco-German Council of Ministers
The establishment of the Franco-German Integration Council was agreed in May 2017 to increase cooperation in the spheres of integration and social cohesion. On 13 July 2017, the four co-chairs met in Paris on the fringes of the 19th Franco-German Council of Ministers for the first time to draw up plans for the first meeting in Berlin.
The Integration Council is to meet at least once a year in the run-up to the Franco-German Council of Ministers. The results of the Council’s work are to be presented in the Council of Ministers in the form of recommendations.