Saturday

18th Aug 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"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.

EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

The EU Commission has received several million responses from citizens, businesses, and organisations on whether to end the daylight summertime savings. Any tangible change would take ... time.

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us