Tuesday

21st Nov 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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Amsterdam wins EU medicines agency on coin toss

The staff of the London-based EMA will move to the Dutch city of Amsterdam after Brexit, following a coin toss. Chance also decided the new home of the European Banking Authority: Paris.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017