German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday her government had no plans to impose a tax hike to cope with a record influx of asylum seekers, firmly denying reports that Berlin and the European Commission were mulling a special refugee solidarity levy.
In an interview to be published by Bild newspaper on Monday, the German leader was asked to confirm that there would be no tax hikes over the refugee crisis.
“Yes, affirmative,” she replied, adding that Germany has “managed our budget well in the last few years and our economy is in a good shape.”
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung had claimed in a report Saturday that Berlin and Brussels had discussed the possibility of raising funds to cope with Europe’s biggest refugee crisis through a special tax, which could take the form of higher levies on fuel or VAT.
But Berlin swiftly denied this, with government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Saturday saying: “We want neither a tax hike in Germany nor the introduction of an EU-tax.”
On Sunday, a European Commission spokesman also rejected the claim, saying: “There is no such proposal currently on the table or under preparation and the Commission never comments on rumors in the press.”
Meanwhile, backing for Merkel’s party has fallen to its lowest point in two years, a survey published Sunday showed, as dissatisfaction over a record refugee influx spreads.
Support for her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has dropped two percentage points to 38 percent — its lowest since the last parliamentary election in September 2013, according to the latest weekly polls by newspaper Bild a.m. Sonntag.
Almost one in two Germans (48 percent) believe that Merkel’s decision to open the country’s doors to those fleeing war was wrong. Those who back her stance stood at 39 percent.
The survey also showed political parties that have been pressing for Germany to shut its doors to refugees as gaining ground, with the populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the liberal FDP both gaining one percentage point to six percent each.
Germany is expecting to receive between 800,000 and one million asylum seekers this year.
The record influx has left regional authorities scrambling to find ways to house the new arrivals.
Merkel has however refused to budge, insisting that Europe’s biggest economy can manage the large numbers.
But doubts have been growing, particularly in the southern region of Bavaria, the gateway to Germany for many of the new arrivals.
The CDU’s sister Christian Social Union (CSU) party has been among the most vocal in condemning the government’s refugee policy.
CSU president Horst Seehofer this weekend condemned what he described as Germany’s “surrender” in refusing to close its borders to migrants.
He has also threatened to take the federal government to the German constitutional court, for allegedly hindering the proper functioning of regional states, some of which have been swamped by migrants and refugees.