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."

"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."