Germany’s opposition Greens on Tuesday called for the country to revamp its complicated immigration rules to launch a so-called “talent card” that will make it easier for skilled immigrants from outside the European Union to enter the country.
Immigration is a hot issue ahead of the general election in September, not just because of the more than one million refugees who have entered the country since the start of 2015 under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy, but because Europe’s largest economy is crying out for skilled workers to replenish its ageing labor force.
The Greens said immigration should, in the future, be based on a points system, with an independent commission to determine how many people should be let into the country each year and what criteria they should meet.
“The ageing society and the lack of skilled workers leave no doubt that Germany relies on immigration and needs an immigration law,” said the parliamentary group leader of the Greens, Katrin Göring-Eckardt.
This isn’t a party political issue, this will decide whether we want to continue to be economically successful in this country. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, parliamentary group leader, Greens
Current immigration rules are complicated and cumbersome. The center-left Social Democrats, junior partners to Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats, last November presented their own points-based plan.
But that didn’t go far enough for the Greens. Their idea for a talent card would enable skilled foreigners and their families to move to Germany even if they haven’t got a job offer, as long as they can find employment within one year. They also wouldn’t have access to financial assistance from the government.
“This isn’t a party political issue, this will decide whether we want to continue to be economically successful in this country,” said Ms. Göring-Eckardt. The plan would cut red tape and end the current system under which authorities must check whether the job an immigrant is applying for could go to a German or E.U. citizen instead.
The Greens also want skilled refugees who have come to Germany from conflict regions such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to be allowed to transfer from the asylum system into the immigration process.
The SPD plan, meanwhile, would assign points to prospective immigrants based on their job qualifications, language skills and age. A concrete employment offer would get them a large number of points. The SPD wants the number of immigrants to be set annually by the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, and to depend on how many newcomers the labor market needs. The party proposed an initial number of 25,000, and said existing provisions such as the E.U.’s Blue Card work permit scheme for highly qualified workers would remain in place.
Ms. Merkel’s conservatives had their own ideas for an immigration law two years ago. But the refugee influx of 2015 and a series of terror attacks last year prompted them to switch their focus to domestic security and repatriating the hundreds of thousands of people whose asylum requests have been denied.
The “Islam law” recently proposed by leading CDU member Jens Spahn to regulate Muslim religious communities suggests that the party doesn’t have much appetite for new immigration laws right now.
The domestic policy spokesman for the conservatives in the Bundestag, Stephan Mayer, said existing rules needed to be tightened to ensure that immigrants integrate themselves properly into German society. “I think we need clear rules governing integration in our country,” Mr. Mayer told Handelsblatt. Integration, he said, “isn’t a one-way street.”
Silke Kersting reports on consumer protection, construction, environmental policy and climate change. Frank Specht focuses on the German labor market and trade unions. To contact the authors: [email protected] and [email protected]