By Daniel Leon
The city of Leipzig is calling for cultural associations wanting to push multicultural projects to apply for funding.
The city is calling on non-profit organisations (Vereinen) that want to do projects promoting multicultural integration, in other words “how to make foreigners feel at home in Germany”, and/or how to reduce discrimination towards foreigners. If you are member of an association, or know someone who is, and your project fits the above description, then you are encouraged to apply before the deadline (September 30, 2015). The city will select certain projects to be funded in 2016.
Leipzig announces this new program at the same time that the story of German parliamentarian Martin Patzelt’s attempt to take action on integration hit the media. The member of the Bundestag opened his home to two young non German speaking Eritrean asylum seekers in order to facilitate their integration into German society. He believes that such actions by common German citizens, and not only federal politicians like himself, would greatly facilitate the integration process for people who were forced to leave their home country, don’t speak the language and know little about the country.
Mr. Patzelt welcomed refugees that were likely to be granted asylum, because Germany recognizes the obligatory military service required to all Eritrean men, amongst other things, as a human rights violation. Thus, it is a move that carries low political risk. However, it is an important example, not only for the good deed, but because of his party membership. He is a parliamentarian for the Christian Democrat Union, Germany’s governing political party. This increases the symbolic importance of Mr. Patzelt’s charitible acttions since his party is the one with a less lenient stance of immigration inflows.
I do not want to suggest that Leipzig’s decision to fund intercultural projects was caused by Mr. Patzelt’s gesture to contribute towards the integration of foreigners, but more that it could be part of a new trend. Immigration to Europe is soaring, and Germany needs young people. Hence, policymakers may be trying to streamline the process by increasing aid to ventures aiming to integrate newcomers. If this is the case, then time will tell.