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Policy Formation and Citizenship Practices: Germany’s Regions as Laboratories for Immigrant Integration

Abstract

Over the past 20 years, Germany’s regions have developed distinct policy regimes at the subnational level, driven by divergent socio-economic realities, constellations in competitive party politics, and modes of including civil society stakeholders into the governance process. The article argues that policies of immigrant integration have been substantially decentralized empowering Länder and leading to a subnationally shaped, albeit regionally distinctive set of policies and administrative practices. This hypothesis is discussed with respect to the evolving role of regions as policy entrepreneurs in immigrant integration and a comparative analysis of Germany’s largest immigrant receiving Länder, North Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria. From a theoretical perspective, the findings contribute to conceptualizing the dynamic of multi-level governance policy formation in the field of immigrant integration.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. The National Integration Plan and the so-called Integration Summits leading up to the Plan’s launch in 2007 indicate a robust effort to promote the integration of newcomers into German society. Even if, as critics point out, Germany is still far from implementing a comprehensive national integration policy, this policy field has seen far more dynamic development than observers would have predicted in 1998 at the end of Chancellor Kohl’s period in office. (SVR 2014)

  2. The language and orientation courses include a 900-hour language course and 30-hour integration course available for each newcomer.

  3. The national Integration Plan states explicitly: ‘The immediate or residential environment has a key role to play in the integration process. This environment will decide on the success of integration in the everyday coexistence of people of different origins. Cities, counties and municipalities are aware of their crucial responsibility for integration.’ See http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/youth/Source/Resources/Forum21/Issue_No10/N10_National_integration_plan_en.pdf (accessed June 28, 2019)

  4. In 2009 only one state - NRW - had a ministry with a term of integration expressed in the name. Meanwhile, however, half of the federal states explicitly have integration ministries. The coordination with the federal level takes place through the integration ministerial conference and Länder-Länder coordination bodies in many policy fields, particularly in cultural affairs, in the Kultusministerkonferenz (Cultural Ministers’ Conference).

  5. Germany’s Federal Statistical Office defines this group as follows: ‘the population group with a migration background consists of all persons who have immigrated into the territory of today’s Federal Republic of Germany after 1949, and of all foreigners born in Germany and all persons born in Germany who have at least one parent who immigrated into the country or was born as a foreigner in Germany.’ (see: https://www.destatis.de/EN/FactsFigures/SocietyState/Population/MigrationIntegration/PersonsMigrationBackground/Current.html; accessed 14 August 2019.

  6. The report and additional statistical material can found at: http://www.integrationsmonitoring-laender.de/; accessed 10 September 2019.

  7. According to the Statistisches Bundesamt, NRW has 2.710.795 (15.1%) and Bavaria 1.921.955 (14.6%) foreigners at the end of 2019 (see: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Bevoelkerung/Migration-Integration/Tabellen/auslaendische-bevoelkerung-bundeslaender.html).

  8. The Christian Social Union (CSU) is the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

  9. The German press release of the Bavarian Constitutional Court can be found at: https://www.bayern.verfassungsgerichtshof.de/media/images/bayverfgh/6-viii-17u.a.-pressemitt.-entscheidung.pdf (accessed 19 June, 2019).

  10. These figures come from the Integration Monitoring report cited in footnote 7. Since then naturalization rates in Bavaria have been rising not least due to the growing desire of EU citizens – most importantly from Great Britain – to become a German citizen.

  11. Translation by author. Interview conducted Ministry for Employment, Integration and Social Affairs in Düsseldorf, April 2017.

  12. Conducted by the Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft: https://www.insm-bildungsmonitor.de/

  13. See https://www.integrationsmonitoring-laender.de/sites/default/files/integrationsbericht_2019_n2.pdf#page=116)

  14. See the various indicators in the 2019 Integration Monitoring Report, part D.

  15. In terms of promoting the political participation of immigrants the Berlin ‘Law for the regulation of participation and integration’ (2010) proved to be pioneering.

  16. See: https://www.dw.com/en/migration-mother-of-all-political-problems-says-german-interior-minister-horst-seehofer/a-45378092 (accessed 9 September, 2019).

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Schmidtke, O. Policy Formation and Citizenship Practices: Germany’s Regions as Laboratories for Immigrant Integration. Int. Migration & Integration 22, 1349–1368 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-021-00804-6

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Keywords

  • Immigrant integration
  • Germany
  • Governance
  • Decentralization
  • Policy formation