Angela Merkel's last day as German Chancellor: live updates

Cem Özdemir of the Green Party in Berlin. Credit… Carsten Koall / Getty Images Sixty years after Germany first invited Turkish wor...


Credit…Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Sixty years after Germany first invited Turkish workers to help rebuild the country after World War II, it appointed its Turkish-German prime minister. This is a historic gesture in a country where more than one in four people have immigrant roots and where Turks have been the main group of immigrants for more than half a century.

“This is a very special moment,” said Naika Foroutan, immigration expert and professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, of the appointment of Cem Özdemir as agriculture minister. “For a lot of people in this country that means: if he can do it, I can do it too.”

But for many, the promotion of Mr Özdemir, a prominent green politician in the Swabia region of southwestern Germany, underlines the country’s slowness in promoting members of ethnic minorities to leadership positions.

“Cem Özdemir is the Federal Prime Minister of immigrant origin – it is almost absurd to say that 60 years after signing the guest worker program,” said Prof. Foroutan, referring to the initiative which brought in many Turks in Germany to help boost its post-war economy. rebirth, including the parents of Mr. Özdemir.

“The visibility and recognition of one’s own group is not only symbolically relevant, but a sign of political participation,” she added.

Although Germany once had a few ministers of foreign origin, their backgrounds were not typical of most post-war migration to the country: Katarina Barley, a former justice minister, had a British father ; Philipp Rösler, who held several positions of responsibility ten years ago, was born in Vietnam and adopted by a family in Germany at the age of 9 months.

Change has also been slow in the Bundestag, the German parliament. Eleven percent of its newly elected lawmakers are from an immigrant background, up from 8% previously, according to the Berlin-based newspaper. Migration media service, who called on the sitting parties to help identify people whose at least one parent was not born in Germany or were not born there themselves.

Mr Özdemir, 55, was born in Germany to Turkish parents four years after the arrival of the first Turkish “guest workers”. This initiative was designed only to temporarily attract immigrant labor, but many participants settled in their host countries, including Mr Özdemir’s parents.

His father had been a farmer in Turkey before emigrating to work in a German textile factory. Mr Özdemir’s mother, who died last summer, worked as a tailor.

In politics for nearly three decades, Mr Özdemir won a seat in Parliament in 1994 at the age of 28, becoming the first Turkish-born lawmaker in the country. He is now popular in Germany, having been co-leader of the Greens for almost a decade until 2018. He is also the first vegetarian to serve as German Minister of Agriculture.

In a television interview this week, Mr Özdemir quoted a letter of support he had received from a German compatriot of Turkish descent, in which its author told him: ‘You are now where none of us has not been before.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Angela Merkel's last day as German Chancellor: live updates
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