German party backs off much-mocked language demand

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 08, 2014 9:52 AM
German party backs off much-mocked language demand

BERLIN (AP) — One of Germany's governing parties backpedaled Monday from a call for immigrants to speak German even at home, giving way in the face of a storm of criticism and mockery even from allies.

The conservative Christian Social Union was on the defensive over a draft motion drawn up by senior officials for a party conference this week, stating that people wanting permanent residency "should be urged to speak German in public and in the family."

The call came at a time of anxiety in Germany and elsewhere in Europe over immigration and increasing numbers of refugees. Critics viewed it as at best absurd, at worst a ploy to win votes by pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment.

The general secretary of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, Peter Tauber, said on Twitter it's "none of politicians' business whether I speak Latin, Klingon or Hessian at home," referring to his home region's dialect.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said no one in his center-left party "would come up with the idea of banning immigrants from speaking their mother tongue, and I am sure that we will never reach this level of political dementia."

The Turkish Community in Germany, representing Germany's large Turkish minority, called it a "misanthropic, unconstitutional, absurd proposal."

CSU general secretary Andreas Scheuer emerged from a party leaders' meeting Monday to say the offending sentence was being changed to say would-be residents "should be motivated to speak German in day-to-day life."

Recommended
What Is John Brennan Hiding?
Sheriff David Clarke (Ret.)

"From the beginning, there was no talk of obligation, bossing people around or inspections," Scheuer said, insisting the party had been misunderstood.

The Bavaria-only CSU, the smallest of three parties in Merkel's coalition, has a history of provocative initiatives meant in part to sharpen its profile.

Merkel didn't comment directly but said "it is self-evident that speaking the German language well is a special point for integration, but it also is no bad thing for children to grow up bilingual."