Monday

25th Sep 2017

Merkel admits mistakes, sticks to refugee policy

  • Merkel's future is on the line as voters turn away from mainstram parties in state elections (Photo: CDU)

After a second stinging defeat in two weeks at the ballot boxes, German chancellor Angela Merkel admitted some mistakes in her refugee policy, but did not reverse her decision to open doors to asylum seekers.

In her first speech since Sunday's local election in Berlin, Merkel on Monday (20 September) said she would turn back time if she could to better prepare for last year’s migrant wave.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"If I could, I would turn back the time by many, many years," Merkel said.

The chancellor's Christian Democrats (CDU) slid to their lowest level since 1990 in the Berlin election in a result blamed on her handling of the migration crisis.

The right-wing, anti-migrant party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), won 14 percent and will enter the Berlin state parliament for the first time.

In her speech, Merkel did not single out her decision in August last year to open Germany’s doors to asylum seekers after thousands were stranded in Budapest’s Keleti railway station, but she pledged not to let last year’s “uncontrolled immigration” be repeated.

“No one wants a repeat of last year’s situation, including me,” she said.

She acknowledged that voters wanted to see a change in her policy, but added that they had not given a clear picture of what they wanted in its place.

"If I knew what change in policy people wanted, I would be ready to consider it and to talk about it," Reuters quoted her as saying.

Merkel told reporters that she needs to better explain her policy.

"If one of the reasons for the CDU's poor showing is that the direction, goal and conviction behind our refugee policy haven't been explained well enough, I'll endeavor to rectify that,” she said.

She distanced herself from her motto, “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do it”) that dominated coverage of the issues last year, calling it an “empty formula”, and said it failed to explain the reasons behind her decision.

“It wasn't meant to imply that it would be easy to deal with the influx,” she said.

Merkel also added that Germany lacked sufficient practice integrating immigrants.

"We weren't exactly world champions in integration, and we waited too long before we addressed the refugee issue. We have to get better, I do as well,” she said.

Merkel admitted she relied too much on Europe’s asylum laws, hoping that they would ease the burden on Germany. “And that was not good,” she said.

Merkel’s future

The voter’s backlash questions whether Merkel, Europe's most powerful political leader, will seek a fourth term next year.

She has not made up her mind yet, while the CDU’s sister party, the Bavarian CSU, has been pushing her to put a cap on migration numbers.

In her speech, Merkel again rebutted a cap of 200,000 people per year, arguing that it would not solve the problem, while being unlawful and unethical at the same time.

Questions have been raised whether the CSU would field its own candidate to run for chancellor, marking a historic break between the two parties.

The Bavarian premier and CSU leader, Horst Seehofer, has been Merkel’s most powerful domestic critic.

If Merkel wants to run again, some kind of agreement with the CSU would need to be hammered out in time for the party's conference in Munich on 4 November.

Seehofer, speaking after Merkel, said people did not want to hear backward-looking apologies.

"Justifications of the past do not help. We need answers for the future now and for the coming years, that's what people are waiting for," he said.

Merkel warns German parties against populism

The German chancellor, in her first speech since the bruising defeat of her party to anti-immigrant AfD over the weekend, defended her migrant-welcome policy.

Merkel survives election 'earthquake'

Christian-democrat leader set to rule Germany together with liberals and greens, but with a new troublemaker - the AfD party - on the scene.

May seeks EU grace period

Eagerly awaited Brexit speech was short on details, but May pledged to honour financial commitments while calling for a two-year transition deal after the UK left.

Analysis

Merkel-Macron: An EU motor in the making

Merkel's re-election is expected to revive the Franco-German EU motor, but the German leader and France's new ruler are still searching for a common vision.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel wins fourth term, exit polls say
  2. EU to hail 'aspirations' of former Soviet states
  3. UK says credit downgrade was wrong
  4. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  5. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  6. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  7. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  8. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel