Thursday

21st Jan 2021

German minister criticises Merkel's 'friendly face' on migrants

Germany must be ready to "prepare a plan B" against the mass arrival of migrants and be ready to close its borders, German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt has said, in a direct challenge to chancellor Angela Merkel's policy.

"We need a quick change in the situation," Dobrindt said in an interview published in the Muenchner Merkur daily on Tuesday (19 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We must prepare ourselves for not being able to avoid border closures,” he said. "We must quickly agree on that with the other countries on the refugee route."

"It is not enough to show the world a friendly face," he added, referring to an expression used by Merkel last September to justify her policy of welcoming all Syrian refugees to Germany.

Dobrindt is from the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian democrat CDU, which has been critical of the chancellor's policy from the start.

Still 'the right one'?

His interview is the most open criticism of Merkel yet to come from her own coalition government.

It comes at a time when her authority on the refugee issue is being challenged by events in Cologne and other cities on New Year's Eve, when dozens of men, mainly of north African or Middle Eastern origin, including migrants, sexually assaulted women on the streets.

On Sunday, Bild, Germany’s most popular daily, asked on its first page whether Merkel is "still the right one".

Under the headline, it listed Germany's - and Merkel's - current problems: "Lack of respect, lack of authority, power struggles … terrorism, criminality, overstrained authorities.”

It concluded: "Merkel's refugee policy [is] at the point of failure."

Coming from a newspaper known for its populist tendencies, but which has, overall, supported Merkel's "Wilkommenspolitik”, the story could signal a change of fortune for the chancellor.

In the interview with the Muenchner Merkur, Dobrindt also pointed out the lack of support for her ideas in Europe

"Who speaks of a coalition of the willing to manage this crisis must also name the reality," he said, referring to a group of countries which Merkel has tried to rally to organise relocation and resettlement of refugees in Europe.

"On this issue there is a pact of the unwilling against us," Dobrindt said.

Pressure builds

So far, just 322 refugees out of a 160,000 quotas have been relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU countries, putting a cloud over Germany's main ideas on how to face the crisis at EU level.

Merkel has so far resisted calls, especially from the CSU, to limit the number of migrants coming to Germany. But she said she would try to "noticeably reduce the number of refugees", after more than 1 million people sought asylum in 2015.

The pressure could increase further.

Austria's interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, has said that from the end of this week, she will let through only migrants who intend to seek asylum in Germany.


On Wednesday, the Austrian federal government will also hold a summit with regions and local authorities to define means to "clearly reduce" the number of refugees.

'Visionary decisions'

While Merkel is being increasingly criticised, the director of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing, said he had "the greatest admiration for Merkel and her visionary and courageous decisions".

"We hoped that all 28 EU member states would imitate her and take responsibility. They did not but that doesn't weaken the admiration and the praise for Merkel's right decisions," he told the Die Welt newspaper.

Germany proposes EU petrol tax to pay for refugees

Germany's finance minister, Wolgang Schaeuble, has proposed an EU-wide petrol tax to cover the costs of the refugee crisis, while saying Europe is moving to slowly on tackling the issue.

Merkel: euro and open borders 'directly linked'

German leader says single market would “suffer massively” if borders were closed, but admitted that Europe is "vulnerable" and lacks the order to receive all refugees.

German MPs sceptical of Merkel's 'European solution'

Conservative critics of the German chancellor's refugee policy feel increasingly insecure after she fails to win over member states for a European solution. Still, few believe that her stepping down would lead to a solution.

Austria imposes asylum cap to 'shake up' Europe

Austria to place cap on number of asylum claims it will process. German president, same day, said it may be “morally and politically” necessary to limit numbers.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary gives initial ok for UK and Russian vaccines
  2. Russia files for Sputnik vaccine registration in EU
  3. Destruction and three deaths in Madrid explosion
  4. Liberals kick out Lithuanian MEP for homophobic jibes
  5. Air pollution killing thousands of Europeans a year
  6. First migrant tragedy of 2021 claims 43 lives
  7. Train revival needed to meet EU climate goals
  8. NGOs shame Monaco for persecuting UK whistleblower

EU demands answers on Croat border attacks against migrants

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson wants to send her officials to Croatia sometime this month to make sure authorities there are complying with fundamental rights following numerous allegations of violence against migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross into the country.

EU watchdog launches probe on Croat border violence

The European Ombudsman is launching a case into the lack of proper oversight by the European Commission when it comes to how fundamental rights of migrants and refugees are allegedly being violated by Croat border police.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. US returns to climate deal and WHO, as EU 'rejoices'
  2. Big tech: From Trump's best friend to censorship machine?
  3. Turkish minister in Brussels to discuss new migrant deal
  4. EU leaders to discuss vaccine certificates
  5. On Erdoğan and Europe's 'ontological' choice
  6. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  7. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  8. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us