Thursday 22 March 2018

Merkel ready to change her unpopular refugee policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Justin Huggler

Angela Merkel has indicated for the first time that she is prepared to change her controversial refugee policy in the wake of heavy regional losses to the anti-immigration AfD.

"If I knew what change in refugee policy the people in Germany want, I would be prepared to consider it," she said. "If I could, I would go back in time to be better prepared for the refugee crisis in 2015, for which we were rather unprepared."

The Chancellor was speaking after her Christian Democrat (CDU) party's disastrous performance in Berlin state elections at the weekend. It recorded its worst ever showing in the German capital, with just 17.6pc of the vote.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which secured 14.5pc of the vote, now holds seats in the Berlin state parliament and its councillors will have direct influence over refugee policy.

"I take responsibility as party leader and Chancellor," said Mrs Merkel, calling the results "bitter".

She said she would not repeat her earlier slogan in the migrant crisis of "we can do it" because it had become "an empty phrase".

Her "open-door" refugee policy has driven the CDU's fall to its lowest level in the national polls for four years and her personal approval ratings have plummeted. She has reacted defiantly to previous losses in regional elections, but yesterday cancelled plans to attend the UN General Assembly in New York in favour of a press conference about the poll, a sign of how seriously the results are being taken.

With just a year to go before national elections, Mrs Merkel is still refusing to say whether she will stand for a historic fourth term.

During her more than 10 years in power, Mrs Merkel has shown that no position is non-negotiable or cannot be changed if necessary - most notably, before 2013's elections she performed a U-turn over her unpopular support for nuclear energy.

However, until now, she has remained immovable over her refugee policy. But yesterday she also made clear she is not prepared to back down completely. "If people don't want Muslim asylum seekers purely because of their religion, that is contrary to our party principles and to Germany's," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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