Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Merkel calls for Muslim veil ban

  • The call for a ban might alienate some of Merkel’s liberal supporters (Photo: Reuters)

German chancellor Angela Merkel tried to rally conservative supporters on Tuesday (6 December) by calling to ban full-face Muslim veils and promising to avoid another major influx of asylum seekers.

Speaking to her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Essen, she said wearing of full-faced veils should be prohibited in schools, courts, and other state buildings, "wherever it is legally possible".

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A full ban would not be compatible with the German constitution, but her proposal was met with applause by party delegates facing a tough fight in next September’s general election.

"The 2017 election for the Bundestag will be difficult like no previous election - at least since German reunification," Merkel told the event.

Merkel, 62, has led the party for 16 years and has been chancellor for 11 years.

She will contest the federal vote in a new climate of far-right populism in Europe, with Germany’s anti-immigrant and anti-EU Alternative for Germany (AfD) gaining momentum in polls.

Merkel was re-elected leader of the CDU party by 89.5 percent of the present delegates.

She also said she does not want to see a repetition of 2015, when almost 1 million asylum seekers entered Germany.

"A situation like that [in] the summer of 2015 can and should not be repeated," she said. "This was and remains our declared political goal.”

“Not all who come here can stay,” she said, adding that it was right to expect newcomers to try to integrate.

Merkel condemned Russia and Iran’s support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and called their attacks on Aleppo a “disgrace”.

Merkel also voiced frustration with the public reaction to the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, a Syrian city under siege by pro-Assad and Russian forces that has drawn comparisons with Bosnia’s Sarajevo in the Balkan wars.

“To be honest, if a free-trade agreement with the United States of America can bring hundreds of thousands out on to the streets, but the barbarous bombardments of Aleppo don’t trigger any public protests, then something is wrong with our political standards,” she said.

Tougher rhetoric

Merkel’s call for a ban on full face veils is another step in her fine-tuning of her liberal asylum policy.

She has become less welcoming amid pressure from the rightwing of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), as well as the AfD threat.

Few Muslim women wear a full veil in Germany or other European countries, but the issue is often seized upon by right-wing politicians due to its strong symbolism.

The call for a ban might alienate some of Merkel’s liberal supporters, who have come to see her as a pillar of Western values amid the populist tide in Europe and in the US.

The chancellor on Tuesday said she could not defend liberal democracy alone, however.

"You must help me," she told the CDU members.

"No one, not even someone with great experience, can change things for the good in Germany, in Europe, in the world more or less on their own - certainly not a chancellor of Germany,” she said.

"We are faced with a world, especially after the US election, that needs to re-order itself, with regard to Nato and the relationship with Russia,” she added, amid concerns that US president-elect Donald Trump could renege on Nato security pledges.

The latest polls showed support for the CDU and CSU at a 10-month high of 37 percent, leading the centre-left Social Democrat Pary (SPD) with 15 points, and with the AfD on 12 percent.

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