Immigration tops agenda of Fischer and colleagues

Integration topics are set to dominate a meeting of the federal presidents of German-speaking Europe in northern Germany.Austrian President Heinz Fischer will meet with his German counterpart Christian Wulff, Swiss President Doris Leuthard and Alois von Liechtenstein, the head of the principality of Liechtenstein, in the city of Lübeck today (Mon).Wulff is expected to raise the subject of immigration following heated public debate in Germany and Austria about possible failures in integrating foreigners. The right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) has looked back on a string of successful performances in various provincial elections in which it purely focused on campaigning against “lazy and potentially criminal foreigners”.The German president caused controversy among conservative politicians by making clear in a recent speech he considered himself the “president of all Germans, also Muslims”. Wulff was lauded by the German Greens for his “courageous statement”.Fischer said in his National Day speech, which was televised at prime time last Tuesday, that he would appreciate it if well integrated families were allowed to stay in Austria regardless of current laws.”The language is the key to a society. It’s important to exchange experiences and to learn from each other,” Wulff said when being asked what he expected from today’s meeting.The presidents of Europe’s German-speaking countries have been meeting once a year since 2004. Fischer, a former Social Democratic (SPÖ) MP, welcomed his counterparts in the Burgenland town of Eisenstadt in October 2009.Today’s gathering is expected to have little immediate political effect since the Austrian and German presidents only have representative roles. The Austrian president can reject laws from coming into force after the parliament has agreed on them. The country’s presidents have rarely done so, however.A poll among 500 Austrians by researchers Karmasin found in April that only 13 per cent think the president has the significant political power, while 60 per cent said the same about the federal government.