A history of integration into the Bundestag | International

Social Democratic MP Adis Ahmetovic, in front of the Reichstag building.
Social Democratic MP Adis Ahmetovic, in front of the Reichstag building.

Adis Ahmetovic’s is a success story. Born and raised in Hannover, a city of just over half a million inhabitants in northern Germany, he studied law, joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and has risen through the ranks of his group until he entered the Bundestag for the first time as deputy at 28 years old. But his story could have been quite another. In 1998 Ahmetovic’s parents, Bosnian refugees from the Balkan war, were about to be deported back to a war-torn country. Desperate, they turned to then-young lawyer Matthias Miersch for help, who, appeal after appeal, managed to keep the family in Germany. More than two decades later, their trajectories have crossed again: both sit on the socialist bench in the new German Parliament.

“I would not be where I am if it weren’t for him,” says Ahmetovic, who says he cannot describe in words the emotion he felt when sitting next to him at the constitution session of the new German Parliament. “The most beautiful story of the Bundestag”, a newspaper headlined the incredible coincidence of the lives of two of the 736 deputies of the twentieth legislature. The first without Angela Merkel at the helm of a country that ruled for 16 years and which is now entering unknown territory with an unprecedented tripartite led by Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. “The citizens have voted for a new beginning, the modernization of the country and the protection of the climate,” says proud Ahmetovic, who has obtained his seat by direct mandate, that is, being the most voted candidate in his constituency.

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Matthias Miersch, left, and Adis Ahmetovic, in the constituent session of the Bundestag, in a photo provided by their parliamentary group.
Matthias Miersch, left, and Adis Ahmetovic, in the constituent session of the Bundestag, in a photo provided by their parliamentary group.

The residence permit that the lawyer obtained for them meant that his parents were able to work legally and he and his brother studied and grew up in a prosperous and stable country. The new deputy was born in 1993, a year after his parents and older brother emigrated. Since 1996 the authorities had begun to send back families originating from areas of the western Balkans where there was no longer hostilities. Until it was his turn. He was very small, but he says he does remember something about Miersch: the box of Haribo jelly beans on his desk.

The two deputies met again a few years ago, at a meeting of the SPD in Hannover to welcome the new members of the party. Miersch was the president of the group and Ahmetovic, a 15-year-old boy who was very aware of equal opportunities in school. That last name immediately caught Miersch’s attention. “It was one of my first cases. I was 29 years old, I had only been in practice for a year and I came across that well-integrated family with two children, who felt panic about having to return to Bosnia. It was very moving to hear from them years later, ”says the 52-year-old deputy. He gave the teenager a card with his name on it and told him to show it to his parents. “My mother burst into tears with emotion when she saw who I had met. I still get goosebumps when I tell it, ”Ahmetovic laughs.

The young deputy attends EL PAÍS in the Bundestag one day without parliamentary activity. The restrictions due to the fourth wave that hit the country with force prevent taking a photo of him inside the hemicycle. He lends himself to posing under the facade of the historic Reichstag building while commenting on how concerned he is about the situation in the western Balkans. “More than 25 years ago my family had to flee because of the war and now it seems that history is repeating itself. The tension is escalating and I am very afraid that another conflict will break out ”. As a deputy, he will focus on the problem of housing and sustainable mobility. He plans to present an initiative to create an annual ticket of 365 euros that allows to use all means of transport at low prices – a single ticket in Berlin costs three euros -, similar to the one in Vienna, the Austrian capital. But his connection to Bosnia directs him toward international politics. He will advocate for the integration of the Balkans into the EU.

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The new Bundestag to emerge from the September 26 elections is the youngest and most diverse in its history, characteristics that Ahmetovic embodies. Deputies under 30 years of age have shot up to 6.4%, when in the last three decades they fluctuated between 1.5% and 3.8%. Parliamentarians with immigration backgrounds have also increased dramatically. They are 11.3%, double that of just two legislatures. “We are still far from representing society, there is much work to be done,” says Ahmetovic. More than one in four Germans (26.7%) have foreign roots. According to the definition of the federal statistical office, this is the case if the person or at least one of his parents was not born with German citizenship.

The new Government, a tripartite of Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals, has proposed a revolution in the country’s strict migration and integration policies. The government agreement provides, for example, to facilitate dual citizenship, something that will especially benefit the Turkish community. After decades living in Germany, tens of thousands of Turks who emigrated as “guest workers” are still foreigners on paper. The deadlines for applying for German nationality will also be shortened to five years, and even three in the event of “special integration achievements”, the text says. The reform of the citizenship law will soften other requirements, such as the level of knowledge of the language.

Ahmetovic recounts his own experience: “I was the first in my family to renounce Bosnian citizenship. We have relatives in the United States, Sweden and Australia, and they have been able to keep their Bosnian passport upon obtaining citizenship ”. He would have liked it too, but in 2015, when he naturalized, it was impossible to keep him because he came from a country outside the European Union. He is happy that this is about to change: “I think dual citizenship expresses a certain recognition and appreciation.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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