Merkel Hails Integration Milestone, Hits Back at Critics

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday called Germany’s new integration plan for immigrants “a milestone” and rejected criticism from ethnic Turkish groups who boycotted a key summit on the issue. Merkel was speaking at a press conference following a meeting with ethnic leaders in Berlin to announce government assistance to minorities which are widely seen as becoming increasingly detached from the mainstream German society. The 90 community leaders at the summit adopted a “national integration plan” containing 400 promises for improvements — ranging from aid for ethnic sports clubs to making more German-language classes available — which Merkel said was the first in Germany’s post-Second World War history. The summit, however, was held under a cloud after four major Turkish groups boycotted the event in protest at legislation passed last week which raises the hurdles for newly wed Turkish citizens moving to Germany to live with their spouses.