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As Merkel Era Ends, a New Chancellor for Germany: Live Updates

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Sixty years after Germany first invited Turkish workers to help rebuild the country after World War II, it appointed its first German-Turkish minister. It is a historic step in a country where more than one in four people has immigrant roots and where Turks have been the main immigrant group for more than half a century.

“It’s a very special moment,” said Nika Vorotan, a migration expert and professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin, of Cem Ozdemir’s appointment as agriculture minister. “For a lot of people in this country, it means: If he can do it, I can do it too.”

But for many, the promotion of Mr. Özdemir, a prominent green politician from the Swabian region in southwest Germany, underscores how slow the country has been in promoting members of ethnic minorities to leadership positions.

Prof. Vorotan said, referring to the initiative that brought many Turks to Germany to help propel its post-war economy revival including Mr. Ozdemir’s parents.

“The emergence and recognition of a particular group is not just symbolic, but a sign of political participation,” she added.

Although Germany had had a few ministers of foreign heritage before, their backgrounds were not typical for most post-war immigration into the country: Katharina Barley, a former justice minister, has a British father; Philip Rossler, who held several senior positions a decade ago, was born in Vietnam and adopted by a family in Germany at the age of 9 months.

Change was also slow in the Bundestag, the German parliament. 11 percent of newly elected lawmakers have an immigrant background, up from 8 percent previously, according to the Berlin-based Migration Media Service, which has asked sitting parties to help identify people who have at least one parent who was not or was not born in Germany. There themselves.

Mr. Özdemir, 55, was born in Germany to Turkish parents four years after the arrival of the first Turkish “guest workers”. This initiative was designed to bring in migrant labor only temporarily, but many of the participants settled in the host country, including Mr. Özdemir’s parents.

His father was a farmer in Turkey before he emigrated to work in a German textile factory. Mr. Ozdemir’s mother, who died last summer, worked as a tailor.

In politics for nearly three decades, Mr. Özdemir won a seat in parliament in 1994 at the age of 28, becoming the country’s first Turkish-origin lawmaker. He is now popular in Germany, where he served as co-leader of the Green Party for nearly a decade until 2018. He is also the first vegetarian to hold the position of Germany’s Agriculture Minister.

In a TV interview this week, Mr. Özdemir quoted a letter of support he received from a German colleague with Turkish roots, in which his author said: “You are now where none of us have been before.”

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