The 'Grande Dame' of German Liberalism at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
During the special visit of Cornelia Schmalz Jacobsen in Israel last week, the 'Grande Dame of German Liberalism' also met with a group of Israeli and German students from the European Forum (HUJI) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
As one of Germany's first 'Federal Commissioners on Immigration Issues', the students discussed with Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen the rise of right wing populism in Germany and the ramifications of the influx of refugees since 2015. It was a fascinating discussion in which it became clear that -like in Israel- also in Germany 70 years after its foundation, citizens are still struggling to define the identity of their country. Is Germany an immigration country? Is there such thing as 'German Culture'? Who belongs to the German nation? What are our guiding values and how can we spread them? How should immigrants be best integrated?
As the former 'Commissioner for Immigration Issues', Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, spoke about her efforts to pave the way for appropriate immigration rules for Germany and for applying the dual citizenship in appropriate cases, which was rejected for a long time in Germany. During her tenure she highlighted the importance of integration measures such as obligatory language courses and vocational training courses for a better inclusion of immigrants into the German society.
Measures like these had been neglected in the decades before and had brought about a second and third generation of immigrants who felt and still feel excluded from the discourse of the main society. Many of them do not identify with certain values like individuality, physical integrity and gender equality - a worrisome phenomenon which can be witnessed not only in Germany but also in France and in other European countries.
Combined efforts of legislators, local and government authorities and civil society are needed to face this challenge in the future for the benefit of a society where all citizens respect each other.