German minister of Turkish origin ‘proud’ of new post
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) shakes hands with designated state secretary for migration, refugees and integration Aydan Özoğuz prior to the signing of the new "grand coalition" government agreement at the German Parliament on December 16, 2013.The German federal cabinet’s first ever minister of Turkish origin said she felt proud of her recent appointment as state minister for immigration, refugees and integration, adding that she could incorporate her personal experience of living as a someone of Turkish descent in Germany.
“I feel a lot of things right now, but I am definitely proud. My family’s thrilled. I received plenty of phone calls today from Istanbul. When something like this happens, they feel like Turkey and Germany got a little closer,” now-state-minister Aydan Özoğuz said.
Merkel, whose conservatives triumphed in a Sept. 22 vote but fell short of an absolute majority, is to be sworn in for a third term today, launching a ‘grand coalition’ with traditional rivals the Social Democrats (SPD). Teaming up with an overwhelming majority against a tiny Greens and far-left Linke opposition, Germany’s two biggest parties will have the power to drive through major reform but also face the threat of reaching only bland compromises.
The Social Democrats deputy leader added that, unlike her predecessor, she experienced what it was like to have lived as a foreigner in her native Hamburg, as well as understanding the troubles of “carrying a difficult name like Aydan Özoğuz.”
“Perhaps I will have a different sensitivity to some issues in Germany due to that experience,” Özoğuz added. The deputy minister said that her appointment as a state minister can also show others of Turkish descent to believe in opportunities as well, and take part actively in social and political circles.
Merkel has kept her trusted lieutenant, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, in his role to continue Berlin’s tough loans-for-reform stance toward troubled eurozone countries and as the watchful guardian of the German public purse. The SPD got the Foreign Ministry, with Frank-Walter Steinmeier returns as Germany’s top diplomat, while the CDU’s rising star Ursula von der Leyen, an international high achiever and mother-of-seven, takes over the Defense Ministry.
The new government has a more leftist hue after the SPD, despite a poor election outcome, drove a hard bargain in coalition talks, winning trophy concessions such as a national minimum wage and higher pension benefits.