KEHL AM RHEIN, Germany, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Newly appointed German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has vowed to crack down on terrorism and improve integration of immigrants living in the country.
With Islamist terrorism spreading as far as Madrid and London and the recent civil riots by French youths with immigrant backgrounds, Europe is facing tough security and social challenges over the next years. Schaeuble, 63, perhaps the most experienced politician inside new Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, has said these issues will be the most important of his time in office.
So far, Germany has been spared a terrorist attack. Officials warn, however, that Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, are potential targets. And there were reports Tuesday that a German citizen for the first time has been kidnapped in Iraq by what looks to be radical Islamists.
Schaeuble's predecessor, Otto Schily, often issued bold, tough threats to prospective terrorists. Referring to suicide bombers, he once said: "If they love death that much, they can have it."
Schaeuble will turn down the volume, but might be better able to affect changes in office, said Karl-Heinz Kamp, a security expert at the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, or KAS, a public policy think tank with ties to the CDU.
"Schaeuble will have an easier time pushing through new anti-terror legislation where Schily didn't have the backing of his center-left government," Kamp told United Press International in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Schily unsuccessfully tried for a federal anti-terror file and wanted to extend the intelligence service's wiretapping competency. Under his wing, Germany was one of the first countries in Europe earlier this month to introduce the biometric passport. The passport had been demanded by Washington due to heightened security concerns after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Schily came under heavy pressure recently, however, for raiding an investigative journalist's office.
Even more than Schily, Schaeuble will see domestic security in a broad international context, observers said. The conservative politician has been the CDU's foreign policy expert for years; he has good relations with Washington and -- before he got entangled in an inner-party slush fund scandal in 2000 -- was the conservatives' main candidate for chancellor. And Schaeuble is no rookie or amateur in the job: He was interior minister before, from 1989 to 1991, under then Chancellor Helmut Kohl through the drama of German reunification.
Married and a father of four, Schaeuble has been paralyzed from the lower back down since Oct. 12, 1990, when an attacker attempted to assassinate him at an election rally. He has had to use a wheelchair ever since.
One of the key questions Schaeuble might have to tackle is the domestic deployment of the Bundeswehr, Germany's armed forces. The constitution so far forbids the Bundeswehr to become overly active on German territory. But Kamp said only the Bundeswehr is equipped to deal with large-scale terror attacks.
"Let's take the scenario of a dirty bomb: The police can't destroy a dirty bomb, only the Bundeswehr has the equipment to do that. I would favor a clarification of our constitution in that respect."
A more immediately felt challenge is the successful integration of foreigners living in Germany. Schaeuble said in one of his first interviews in office that he wanted to improve integration efforts to prevent French-style riots happening in Germany, a country that is currently home to about 7 million foreigners.
Turks make up the biggest group with 2 million, many of them living in large cities, such as Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart or the Ruhr area. Each year, nearly 60,000 Turks take on the German citizenship. Germans with Turkish migration background account for 600,000.
Unemployment among young Turks is at nearly 25 percent, more than double the national average, fueled by early school dropouts and little to no German language knowledge.
Experts say Germany is unlikely to mirror the civil unrest that happened earlier this month in France. However, integration is far from optimal, said Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, integration expert at the KAS.
"Problematic are the closed-off Turkish neighborhoods in large German cities, where immigrants live in a completely Turkish environment, where they don't ever need to speak German. They have Turkish shops, doctors and lawyers. There is no pressure to modernize in these neighborhoods," he said.
The question that Schaeuble will have to answer is: Should immigrants adapt to the dominant culture, or should the country adopt multiculturalism? Germany's new interior minister is likely to urge immigrants to adopt to German life.
With many Turks bringing young brides from Turkey to marry, there is a constant reseeding of values from home, rather than real integration, he said.
Because of Germany's history of ethnic and religious hatred, governments in the past tried to avoid accusations of discrimination and thus have not aggressively policed immigrant neighborhoods. But this is now an outdated policy, von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf said.
"The state must not retreat from these areas," he said. "The people have to accept the German laws, its constitution. That starts at school, where Turkish girls often aren't allowed to join sports classes or the school trips. That's taking chances away from them."
But it's not only about adapting. Germany, a country with 4.77 million unemployed, has to provide young immigrants with a future in the form of an apprenticeship or a real chance for a job. Discrimination against young Turks when it comes to finding a job or an apartment has to stop, von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf said.
"The problems with regard to effective integration haven't gotten less," he said. "Quite the contrary.I have the feeling that with every new generation, integration is getting harder."