Germany: Criticism of First Turkish-German Minister Grows

Germany: Criticism of First Turkish-German Minister Grows

Via Spiegel:

Aygül Özkan, 38, was meant to be the next great hope for a new generation of German politicians. In April, she became the first person of Turkish origin to be appointed as a government minister at the state level . Indeed, it was rare that a politician had been given as much advance praise or had been saddled with such great expectations.

"She's a major role model, with her competence and her character and she will get off to a good start and do a good job," Christian Wulff, then the state governor of Lower Saxony and now Germany's president, said at the time. He said she would also help to "prevent parallel societies" from forming, a reference to immigrant ghettos many politicians fear are developing in German cities.

At the time of her appointment as social minister, Özkan was feted not just by her party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but across the political spectrum. But Özkan's time in office so far has been marred by controversy.

Only days before taking up her job, Özkan said in an interview that "Christian symbols" -- specifically crucifixes, "do not belong in state-run schools." She added that Muslim headscarves don't, either -- positions that had even been backed by Germany's highest court. But pressure from within her party was tremendous and Wulff reprimanded his protégé, who in turn apologized.

Later, Özkan sparked controversy because of employee contracts she had signed as a manager at TNT, a postal services company. At the company, some workers received wages of only €7.50 ($9.80) per hour. Employment lawyers accused her of having created "working conditions that were at the legal limits." The politician responded by describing the criticism as "absurd" and "unfounded."

And last week, she caused an outcry when she called on journalists to sign a so-called "media charter for Lower Saxony," in which they were supposed to agree to common standards for reporting about integration efforts in the state.


Özkan then abandoned her plans. It was the second major gaffe in her short term in office. Indeed, the impression she has given so far has bordered on disastrous. Özkan is currently on vacation and has refused to grant interviews. So what has gone wrong with Germany's first minister of Turkish origin?