ANGELA Merkel – poised for a hammering by the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in her home state on Sunday – says she has no regrets about allowing a million refugees into the country.
By Allan Hall
Merkel says she’d let in another million refugees into Germany
But she admitted that she wants to see an American-style data recording system that tracks everyone who enters and leaves Europe’s passport-less Schengen Zone.
In a wide ranging interview published on Saturday in the bestselling Bild newspaper in Berlin she was asked if she would do the same again and replied: “Yes, I would. ”
And the German Chancellor added that she did not regret the decision even though her approval rating is at a five year low and the open door policy has sent tens of thousands of her supporters flowing into the ranks of the AfD.
Mrs Merkel has received much criticism in her homeland for posing for a selfie with a refugee – a move interpreted by many as a recruiting poster for evermore migrants.
But she insists: “Nobody makes the difficult decision to put himself and his family in the hands of traffickers, to spend a lot of money on this, and to risk his life, on the basis of a selfie.
“First, Germany is a very attractive country, anyway. This is not only due to economic reasons, but also humanitarian reasons. The decisive question is how to deal with this.
“Seclusion is not a sensible option. Second, Sweden and Austria have temporarily accepted more refugees per capita of the population than we did.”
Mrs Merkel was asked if she could “have imagined that the EU would fail so miserably given such a great challenge? Has the wave of refugees buried the European project under itself?”
Merkel: “Step by step, Europe has to learn how to assert itself in a globalised world. With the refugee crisis, globalisation is also hitting us hard: Europe has created a space of freedom – but are we capable of protecting this space? Everyone is prepared to protect their national borders, but what do we do about the external borders, especially those at sea? So Europe has not generally failed, but it is going through obviously difficult learning processes.”
Germany is still on edge following murderous terrorist attacks carried out by refugees in July. Mrs Merkel’s mantra “we will manage” about the crisis is now hated by many.
Mrs Merke’s mantra ‘we will manage’ about the crisis is now hated by many
But she went on: “The idea that ‘we will manage’ highlights that this was, and is, a particularly great challenge and that we are motivated and want to overcome any obstacles on our way. For a long time now, Germany has been exposed to the threat of Islamist terrorism – not only since Ansbach and Würzburg.
“We know that jihadists from Germany, too, went to Syria, were trained by IS and then, partly, also returned here. Moreover, we know that not all refugees came here with good intentions.
“In general, we have to be very vigilant, since Islamist terrorism represents great challenges for our security services. However, we should never forget that the vast majority of Syrians and Iraqis fled to us from war and terror and oppose violence and extremism as much as we do.
“I still understand that many people are concerned after Würzburg and Ansbach. We are therefore facing two great tasks: on the one hand, we have to integrate everyone who will stay with us for a longer period of time or permanently. We also have to demand that they are willing to integrate. On the other hand, we have to do everything that is possible to fight Islamist terrorism and to prevent attacks.
Merkel: ‘Step by step, Europe has to learn how to assert itself in a globalised world’
“On the European level, we should start working on an electronic entry control system modelled on the US system. This means that – regardless of whether they travel visa-free or not – anyone who enters a European country and who leaves again is registered, so that you know exactly who has not left and is still somewhere in the Schengen Area.
“Given the good economic situation, we can manage the challenges. Let us not forget: if the refugees’ integration succeeds, both sides will profit. Of course it is also true that those who seek protection with us have to follow our rules. They have to accept our laws and our constitution and have to try to find training and employment in order to contribute to our country. In most cases, this starts with participating in integration courses.
“Essentially, the point is: we are a country that puts the dignity of every single human being at the centre of things. And if you are facing a humanitarian catastrophe like the one in Syria, you have to take a stand.
“It is perfectly obvious that last year cannot simply be repeated. This is why we took all those measures I have described. It was right to take this humanitarian responsibility seriously and to still take it seriously. In doing so, we did not take anything away from anybody in this country. We are still fulfilling the task of politics to maintain the quality of life of the people in Germany and to improve it, and we are still as good at this as before.
“In politics, there are always decisions that one has to make without carrying out an opinion poll first. With the results of our work, of course I hope to, in the long term, convince as many people as possible that our way is the right one. Incidentally, when I ask about the retirement age of 67, I still have no majority today, even though it remains an appropriate and necessary measure.”
Mrs Merkel refused to confirm or deny that she will run for a fourth term in the general election next year.