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Labouring the point

Germany — Immigration

The news that The German Interior Ministry had proposed an immigration law that would allow more foreigners to apply for jobs in Germany took everyone by surprise. After all, the Interior Ministry is run by the csu, Bavaria’s immigration hardliners, and headed by Horst Seehofer, who almost brought down the federal government in June over matters of migration.

The proposal appears to be the result of economic reality trumping political ideology: Germany urgently needs skilled labour. The Chamber of Industry and Commerce estimates that Bavaria alone lacks 226,000 skilled workers.

German immigration laws are already lenient. As long as they have a job offer, non-EU citizens with a degree in higher education and skilled workers in “shortage occupations” can move to Germany. The new proposal would expand immigration rights to all skilled workers proficient in German and remove the “EU first” provision for hiring.

It’s not clear, however, whether the proposal makes economic sense. Karl Brenke, who studies the labour market for the German Institute of Economic Research, believes that employers are trying to shirk their responsibility by pushing for political action. “In the EU labour market, there’s huge under-employment and youth unemployment,” he says, adding that German employers could fulfil their needs if they recruited workers from other EU countries and offered more desirable employment packages.

Thomas Bauer, chairman of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, welcomes the proposal. He isn’t worried about a repeat of the guest-worker experience of the 1950s and 1960s, when Germans welcomed foreign workers with the expectation that they would eventually leave. “The proposal doesn’t refer to temporary immigration but to a permanent one.”

This may be the proposal’s most important aspect. Seventeen years ago, the cdu/csu under Angela Merkel torpedoed an attempt to establish an immigration law, stating that “Germany is not a classic immigration country”. By its name alone, this Immigration Law would be an official recognition that Germany, in fact, is an immigration country.


Moving day?

Georgia — Elections

Georgia’s presidential elections take place on 28 October but where should the victor live? A debate has resurfaced over relocating the presidential residence from the Presidential Palace in Tbilisi’s Avlabari district to the former US embassy on Atoneli Street.

Leading contender Grigol Vashadze thinks the president should stay put. But Salome Zurabishvili, an independent candidate who is polling strongly, has come out in favour of a move, saying the prime minister should have use of Avlabari instead. But some say she’s trying to gain favour with the governing Georgian Dream party – not to mention the PM – as their endorsement would boost her campaign.


On a pedestal

Canada — History

Shortly after Victoria, BC, removed a statue of Canada’s first prime minister John A Macdonald from city hall in August, its replacement plaque was defaced with “1984”. The removal has reignited a debate over how Macdonald – architect of the “Indian residential school system” best known for indigenous cultural genocide and systemic child abuse – should be commemorated.

Many say that removing statues also erases the opporunity to learn from history. Yet the debate won’t disappear if statues are left standing either: a Macdonald monument in Montréal has been vandalised three times in the past year.


Q&A

Soner Cagaptay

Author
Turkey

US-Turkey relations have hit their lowest point in decades as discord grows over opposing Syria strategies, trade tariffs and US sanctions imposed on Ankara for its extended detention of American citizens. As US president Donald Trump and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan exchange blows, we speak to Soner Cagaptay, author of The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey, to put the feud in context.

Turkey is a crucial Nato ally from where US forces launch operations in the Middle East. But what benefit does a US partnership provide Erdogan in 2018?
Erdogan benefits from an ongoing deal in Manbij, Syria, where the US is co-ordinating the transfer of territory from Kurdish militias opposing Ankara to Turkey. Turkey also benefits from US intelligence, especially against Kurdistan Workers’ party militants in Iraq. The biggest benefit the US provides Turkey is umbrella security protection. Turkey is the only large Muslim-majority country in Nato, which means the US is committed to Turkey’s defence.

Turkey has worked to restore ties with Europe. What makes EU-Turkey relations differ from US-Turkey relations?
As Turkey seems to prepare for a drawn-out conflict with the US over detainees and other issues, Ankara is resetting with its European allies in order to balance the negative effects that a rupture with the US would have on the Turkish economy.

Could an extended economic downturn damage Erdogan’s standing with Turkish voters?
Turkey is an advanced case of what happens to democratic societies when they elect populist leaders. The end result looks to be echo chambers. The pro-Erdogan echo chamber’s reality is that the president wants to make Turkey great again and Muslims proud again so they buy into the rhetoric that he’s under attack by foreign adversaries and should stand with him. I don’t think his support will crumble.

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