Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Grading Germany's 'Green Card' ; Even as a Foreign-Worker Program Begins, Neo-Nazi Violence Highlights an Anti-Minority Climate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Grading Germany's 'Green Card' ; Even as a Foreign-Worker Program Begins, Neo-Nazi Violence Highlights an Anti-Minority Climate

Article excerpt

Skinheads and business leaders are anything but in agreement, yet neither group is happy about the new initiative to lure foreign computer experts to high-tech jobs in Germany.

The government of Chancellor Gerhard Schrder issued its first "green card" to an Indonesian programmer Aug. 1, just as right-wing extremists nationwide were going on a summer spree of intimidation of minorities - at least three with fatal consequences. The unfortunate juxtaposition caused business leaders to call for decisive action against right-wing rowdies, warning that further incidents could damage Germany's economic attractiveness abroad.

"The right-wing thugs are threatening to become a serious disadvantage for Germany as a business location, especially in the East. Which dark-skinned scientist, which colored student, which high-tech expert from another culture would want to work here?" asked the Munich daily Sddeutsche Zeitung.

In a society that for decades has viewed immigration as a necessary evil at best, Germans are only now waking up to the concept of foreign workers as an economic boon. The business elite has long realized that globalization includes their domestic labor market, but hard-core extremists are resisting the trend with steel- tipped boots and baseball bats.

Unemployment and neo-Nazi crime rates in Germany's east are both higher than in the western states, and there are fears that neo- Nazis are dominating the youth culture in the east.

"It's not like there's a little neo-Nazi in every German," says Helmut Haussmann, a former economics minister. Instead, German society has failed to reach out to those who've yet to see benefits from the global economy, he says. "A part of right-wing extremism is simply the fear of change, and this point hasn't been regarded enough in the current debate."

Applicant response

While Dr. Haussmann says that recent violence against foreigners is unlikely to scare off white Eastern Europeans, it could prevent Asians and Africans from applying for the German green card.

On Friday the Federal Institute for Employment reported that more than 100 work permits had been issued daily since the beginning of August. But critics say that there are far fewer applications than the 20,000 available slots.

"It would be a bit too early to say it's a success," says Elisabeth van der Linde of the Ministry of Labor. Yet she adds that putting an end to right-wing terror "is a top priority in all the ministries. The fear of the image abroad is certainly the motivation behind that."

Academics are also concerned about the country's future as an international center of research and development. "The present image of Germany damages our worldwide recruiting capabilities," Bernd Ebersold of the Max Planck Institute said in a published interview. …

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