Thursday

13th Dec 2018

Merkel defends handling of migrant crisis

  • "I have a plan", Merkel said.

Angela Merkel defended her handling of the migrant crisis on Wednesday (7 October), repeating that Germany would face the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants head-on and would not close its border.

"We can do it", the German chancellor said several times in an interview with German public TV ARD, using a phrase she used in September at the height of the migrant crisis.

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"I am completely convinced of that", even if "it will be hard work".

On Wednesday afternoon, Merkel was in Strasbourg to address the European Parliament with French president Francois Hollande.

She called on EU member states to show solidarity in the migrant crisis, arguing that Europe should "respect its identity and values" or risk betraying itself.

In the evening she addressed German voters on television to try to dispel their doubts. Most recent polls indicate a drop in her popularity and an ARD poll showed that 51 percent of people questioned "are afraid that so many refugees come to Germany", up from 38 percent in September.

"Germany is a strong country, it is a great country," Merkel said in the interview, and it is facing "the most difficult task since the reunification" in 1990.

"The situation is here," she said. "It is not possible to use figures now, but that does not matter. There are many, many" refugees in Germany.

'I have a plan'

But "we cannot close the borders", she warned. "When you build a fence, people will look for other ways. There is no freeze on admissions".

Merkel also responded to criticism, including from her own political side, that she opened to door to migrants with no plan to face the situation. "I have a plan," she said on ARD, but did not give new specifics.

Referring to when she said that Germany would not be her country if it had "to start apologising for showing a friendly face in response to emergency situations", she said she spoke "with [her] heart" and added she was the leader of "a christian party".

She reiterated that EU countries should help and, referring to countries that refuse to relocate refugees, she regretted that "some still shirk their responsibility".

The chancellor also said that part of the solution to the crisis lay in helping countries neighbouring Syria to cope with the presence of millions of refugees in camps - Turkey in particular.

"We need to talk to Turkey about sharing the burden better," she said. "That will mean that we give Turkey money ... and that we fulfill certain demands that Turkey has, such as easing visa restrictions."

"It is my damned duty to speak about the situation" in Turkey, she added.

She also said that she still opposed Turkey's membership to the EU. Turkish "president Erdogan knows this", she said.

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