Solution to immigration challenge is tighter controls, German finance minister tells Dublin

Christian Lindner says German economy has problems with its ‘fitness’ as Michael McGrath hails €42bn business with Ireland’s largest EU trading partner

German finance minister Christian Lindner has said the solution to Europe’s immigration challenge is tighter controls.

Speaking to reporters on a one-day visit to Dublin for talks with his Irish counterpart, Michael McGrath, Mr Lindner was asked if Germany, which has experienced a rapid rise in far-right, anti-immigrant politics in recent years, had any advice to offer Ireland.

While insisting he was not here to give advice to the Irish Government, he said Germany faced two distinct challenges in the context of immigration.

“On the one hand, we have shortages in the labour market... and on the other hand we have experienced illegal migration into our welfare system and people do not accept this and the solution is control,” he said.


Mr Lindner, who is the leader of the country’s Free Democratic Party, said Germany had adopted new, less bureaucratic rules for legal migration into its labour market, which he said were similar to Canada’s. “And on the other hand, we stopped illegal migration into our welfare state by different means and this is how we intend to convince people to accept migration through control.

“We will make a choice who we invite into our labour market, with whom we show solidarity and who is not allowed to stay in Germany,” he said.

Support for Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has soared in the past two years, buoyed by discontent with the government’s handling of crises including the Ukraine war, inflation and pressure on public services from large-scale immigration.

On Germany’s stuttering economic performance, Mr Lindner said Germany was not the sick man of Europe but “we have problems with our fitness”.

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“By substance, the German economy is strong but circumstances have changed, higher interest rates, we have less demand from global markets, we feel the economic consequences of the sanctions against Russia after the attack on Ukraine... now we have to rearrange, we have to invest in our competitiveness,” he said.

Mr Lindner said last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Germany was not the sick man of Europe, but a tired man in need of a “good cup of coffee” of structural reforms.

The German economy has been hit harder than most from a slowdown in the world economy driven by higher interest rates and weaker global trade with GDP (gross domestic product) shrinking by 0.3 per cent last year.

Mr McGrath said the resilience of the Germany economy was not in question. “It has long been a key driver of the European economy and I have no doubt that will continue,” he said.

He hailed Ireland’s increased trading ties with Germany, noting Germany is now Ireland’s largest trading partner in the European Union. The combined two-way trade between the states is now valued at €42 billion annually, Minister McGrath said.

“From an Irish perspective, we are impacted by the global external environment and it is challenging... but against that backdrop we’ve reached a record level of employment in Ireland of almost 2.7 million people and we anticipate the Irish economy will grow this year both in terms of GDP and modified domestic demand, our preferred measure,” he said.

Minister McGrath and Mr Lindner earlier held a bilateral meeting, “where they assessed economic and fiscal developments domestically and internationally, took stock of global tax discussions and shared views on bilateral co-operation,” the department said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times