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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a long-time opponent of xenophobia.
Now, however, she appears to be embracing it, for reasons of political expediency.
Merkel has branded Germany’s attempts to build a multicultural society an “utter failure” in an unprecedented speech designed to revive her own and her conservative party’s flagging popularity and regain the initiative in an increasingly hostile public debate about immigration.
Ms Merkel, who normally scrupulously avoids courting xenophobic opinion, bluntly told a meeting of young members of her ruling Christian Democratic party that the “Multikulti” notion of people from different cultural backgrounds living happily side by side simply did not work.
“This approach has failed, utterly failed,” she told applauding young conservatives gathered at a conference in Potsdam outside Berlin on Saturday. Instead she urged Germany’s 16 million immigrants to do more to integrate into society and to learn German.
Earlier, in a reference to Germany’s 2.5 million Turkish immigrant population, she told delegates: “In the beginning of the Sixties, we called on foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country.” She added: “We kidded ourselves for a while by saying they won’t stay, sometime they will be gone, but this isn’t reality.” Ms Merkel’s remarks were both a response to a surge of anti-immigrant feeling in Germany and an attempt to counter her vulnerable position in her own party.