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40 years of Federal Government Commissioners for Integration

Openness rather than isolation

Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered her congratulations on the 40th anniversary of the appointment of the first Federal Government Commissioner for Integration. Germany, she said, has become more cosmopolitan, and the Federal Government Commissioners for Integration have driven the process forward with a great deal of stamina and tenacity. As a country with a flourishing economy, Germany needs immigration.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the celebration to mark 40 years of Government Commissioners for Integration The Chancellor said, integration calls for "public spirit rather than egotism, for seeing the bigger picture rather than taking a blinkered approach, for openness to one another rather than retreating into isolation." Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The Federal Government Commissioner for Integration, Annette Widmann-Mauz, said at the ceremony to mark "40 years for integration", "One in four people in our country has a family history that involves immigration. The realisation that we are a country of immigration has been long in coming. Sometimes we might think that the process is ongoing." The realisation that integration is an investment in the future of our country has, however, taken root, said Annette Widmann-Mauz.

She summed up, "It is my goal that diversity should be seen as a positive value by everybody in our country and that it should be experienced as such, on the basis of our Basic Law or constitution."

A cosmopolitan Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel also noted in her address, "It has taken us a very long time to speak openly about integration." The Federal Government Commissioners for Integration have driven the discussion forward, she declared. They have needed stamina, staying power and tenacity. But Germany has become more cosmopolitan. She sees integration as part of the job description of every minister, including herself, said the Chancellor.

Women are important for integration

It is only sensible to specifically address women from immigration families and refugee families, explained Angela Merkel. Women play a vitally important part among immigrants and refugees. "It is women who pass on language skills and values. Women and mothers do much to ensure that their families find their feet in our society and our culture," she declared.

Government should pave the way

With a view to Germany’s economic prospects, Angela Merkel said that every gifted individual counts. "Economic prosperity in Germany also depends on skilled foreign workers," said Angela Merkel. With the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, the German government is putting in place a framework.

"We, as the government, can help pave the difficult way toward integration, but the road to integration is a road that every individual must take," said the Chancellor. Integration calls for "public spirit rather than egotism, for seeing the bigger picture rather than taking a blinkered approach, for openness to one another rather than retreating into isolation."

It is a remarkable thing, said Angela Merkel, that so many people volunteer. She thanked all of those "who are doing so much here".

Carrying on in future

The job of Federal Commissioner for Integration will continue to be important. Angela Merkel called on her audience, "This is not the time to stand by and do nothing. It is the time to roll up our sleeves and carry on working, so that together we make Germany even better."

40 years of the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration
The Federal Government Commissioner for Integration was first created in 1978 under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, as the "Commissioner to promote the integration of foreign workers and their families" which was soon abbreviated to the "Commissioner for foreigners". Between then and 2005 the Commissioner was attached to several different federal ministries, before being moved to the Federal Chancellery in that year. The Federal Government Commissioner for Integration has the rank of a minister of state within the Federal Chancellery, and attends cabinet meetings.

The Federal Government Commissioners for Integration:
•             Heinz Kühn (1978 to 1980)
•             Liselotte Funcke (1980 to 1991)
•             Almuth Berger (1990 to 1991)
•             Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen (1991 to 1998)
•             Marieluise Beck (1998 to 2005)
•             Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer (2005 to 2013)
•             Aydan Özoguz (2013 to 2018)
•             Annette Widmann-Mauz (since 2018)