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June, 2004 - Nr. 6


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Breakthrough On Immigration Law

  TWIG - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s government has broken a three-year logjam with the center-right opposition on the country’s first-ever comprehensive immigration law, striking a deal designed to allow in a controlled stream of skilled workers for the first time in nearly 30 years.

"All in all, this is a big step forward for the basis of a modern immigration law," Schroeder told reporters on Monday.

The way has now been cleared for representatives from the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens to hammer out the details of the measure with their conservative counterparts before presenting draft legislation to parliament by June 17.

Immigration is among the most contentious and emotional political issues in Germany, a country with a stubbornly high unemployment rate of more than 10%. Business leaders nonetheless say that Germany’s low birth rate and lack of qualified labor make foreign workers sorely needed.

Monday’s breakthrough came after negotiators from the ruling coalition agreed to add tougher security provisions to the law. The talks had been stalled on conservatives’ insistence that immigrants be screened by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency and that expulsion procedures be streamlined.

Schroeder’s government has waged a three-year battle to push a comprehensive immigration bill through parliament, but attempts to pass a bill on foreign workers were consistently blocked by lawmakers in the majority-conservative Bundesrat upper house of parliament.

Some 7.2 million foreigners already live in Germany, but, with the exception of a five-year "green card" scheme for IT specialists, the country has effectively closed the door on new foreign workers since the 1970s.

The government’s immigration plans would apply to workers from non-European Union countries and may also benefit workers in the Central and Eastern Europeans countries that recently joined the EU but who cannot yet freely work in Germany.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


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