Bavarian integration law partly declared unconstitutional

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Bavaria’s integration law partly violates the state constitution. According to the State Constitutional Court, mandatory courses on ‘German values’ for migrants are an inadmissible encroachment on freedom of expression. SPD and Greens have challenged the government to reconsider their policy.

The integration law passed by the state parliament three years ago is partially unconstitutional. The Bavarian Constitutional Court partially granted the complaints of the SPD and Green parliamentary groups in the state parliament. The judges ruled that certain stipulations constituted offences against freedom of broadcasting and the freedom of expression, as court president Peter Küspert announced.

According to the Constitutional Court, the power of the security authorities to oblige people to take a basic course on German liberal-democratic values solely on the basis of a certain attitude to liberal democracy is an “unacceptable encroachment on freedom of opinion”. According to the decision, the Integration Act is disproportionate on this point, since the obligation to participate in these courses has the objective of trying to control people’s minds.

Judges see violation of freedom of broadcasting

Moreover, the legal obligation to propagate the “Leitkultur”, defined in the preamble of the Bavarian Integration Act, in public television and radio violates the freedom of broadcasting and freedom of expression.

In addition, the Bavarian constitutional judges scrapped the provision regarding a fine for activities which seek to replace the existing constitutional order with another legal order. According to the court, this violated federal law.

The judges, however, consider further points against which the SPD and the Greens had filed suit to be in conformity with the constitution. “These include in particular the provisions on the integration objectives pursued by the law, on the general principles of integration promotion, on the reimbursement of costs and interpreter liability for translations in administrative proceedings, on the educational content in day-care centres and on the police’s right to access asylum centres,” the Constitutional Court stated. The judges do not contest the concept of a Leitkultur because it describes only abstract objectives and “does not establish any subjective rights or obligations”.

SPD: “Debacle for State Government

Several SPD politicians considered the Constitutional Court’s decision a success for their party. “Now we have it in black and white: the CSU has whipped an unconstitutional law through parliament with its absolute majority at the time – against all warnings from experts and against all protests from civil society,” said SPD leader Horst Arnold. He called on the state government to revise the law quickly. “Or even better: they should bury it completely.” Because such a “divisive law” does not look good on the Bavarian Free State.

Florian von Brunn, member of the state parliament, tweeted: “This is a serious debacle for the state government and predictably so!” His party colleague Florian Ritter wrote that the debate on the integration law was an attempt by the CSU to “score points with AfD voters”.

Greens: CSU has betrayed “Leitkultur” itself

According to Gülseren Demirel, integration policy spokeswoman for the Green parliamentary group, “wide-ranging criticism” illustrates to what extent the then CSU government “exceeded its competences with its law aimed at exclusion”. In the end, the CSU “betrayed and violated” the Leitkultur, which it places above everything else. The Constitutional Court’s decision must be an occasion to rethink Bavarian integration policy “and to reconcile all the people who live here together”.

The Bavarian FDP state parliament group leader Martin Hagen said that the CSU had “received the bill for a law that had been poorly crafted”. A Leitkultur could not be imposed from above. “Nevertheless, it is true that integration requires the acceptance of our values. The values of the constitution must be the basis of our coexistence”.

CSU sees law predominantly confirmed

The parliamentary director of the CSU parliamentary group, Tobias Reiß, pointed out that the majority of the 22 regulations had been confirmed. How to deal with the points criticized by the judges will be clarified in the next few weeks.

Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) made similar comments. “The constitutional judges have confirmed the concept of the Leitkultur,” he said. The goal of an obligation to integrate is also compatible with the Bavarian constitution. This would not affect the principle of “Fördern und Fordern”, which had been attacked by the SPD and the Greens. The Minister announced that the decision of the Constitutional Court would now be evaluated in detail and the remaining objections of the court analyzed.

According to head of the state chancellery Florian Herrmann (CSU), the state government might accept the court’s decision. This is his “preliminary assessment”, even if one first has to read the ruling carefully, he said after a cabinet meeting. “I would just accept that now.”

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