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5th Mar 2024

Merkel: Migrants are 'opportunity' for Germany

  • Merkel: 'The influx and the integration of so many people is an opportunity for tomorrow' (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

Chancellor Angela Merkel told Germans they should see the arrival of thousand of migrants as "an opportunity" and warned of divisions in German society.

In her traditional New Year's address to be broadcasted on Thursday (31 December), Merkel, once again, defended Germany's "Wilkommenskultur" - the culture of welcome, which has informed her policy since the start of the migrant crisis last summer.

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She called on Germans to be "self-confident and free, humanitarian and open to the world" because "past immigration have always benefited to countries.”

“I am convinced that, handled properly, today’s great task presented by the influx and the integration of so many people is an opportunity for tomorrow,” she said.

In 2015, Germany registered 1.1 million migrants and refugees, Emilia Muelle, the social affairs minister of the state of Bavaria, said Wednesday. This is five times more than the previous year.

The high number of migrants has put pressure on social services and infrastructures, and has fuelled repeated calls to put a limit on the number of arrivals.

"Germany cannot shoulder this number of arrivals forever," Mueller said.

Cohesion

In her address, Merkel admitted that "the influx of so many people will keep demanding much of us."

"It will take time, effort and money,” she said. But Germany "will make it because it is a strong country," she added.

To underline her message, Merkel hailed the “outstanding” work of civil servants and security forces, who did "far, far more than their duty" and thanked the volunteers who helped migrants, for their "overwhelming and truly moving wave of spontaneous helpfulness."

The chancellor also warned citizens that "next year is about one thing in particular: our cohesion."

"It is important that we not let ourselves be divided," she said. "Not into generations, not into social groups, and not into those that are already here and those that are new citizens."

“It is crucial not to follow those who, with coldness or even hatred in their hearts, lay a sole claim to what it means to be German and seek to exclude others," she added in a veiled reference to the Pegida movement.

Pegida, whose name stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident, organises regular demonstrations against Muslims and against Merkel's immigration policy.

Values

In a symbolic show of Pegida's influence, the "hymn" of the movement, "Gemeinsam sind wir stark" (Together we are strong) recently topped downloading charts on the Amazon website.

But the American online seller said it would give the money from the sells to NGOs helping refugees.

While sticking to her positions, Merkel drew the limits of the Wilkommenskultur. She also spoke about German values, to stress they should form the basis of migrants' integration.

"Our values, our traditions, our sense of justice, our language, our laws, our rules support our society and they are the basic requirement for a good common life imbued by mutual respect," she said.

This apply "to all who wish to live here," she added.

Merkel also said, like she did at her CDU party's congress earlier this month, that her government was working to "noticeably reduce the number of refugees in a sustainable and lasting way."

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