Merkel urges burka ban in U-turn
GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a ban on the burka "wherever possible" in Germany and said that there can be no repeat of last year's migrant crisis in a speech launching her bid for another two-year term as leader.
"German law takes precedence over sharia," Mrs Merkel (pictured) said during a speech at her party's annual two-day congress in the western city of Essen.
"The full-face veil should be banned, wherever legally possible," she said, to prolonged applause.
That is expected to mean a ban on burkas in public life including for civil servants, schools, universities and while driving.
It was described as a "burka ban lite" when her government proposed it a few months ago.
Party faithful from Mrs Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) were expected to overwhelmingly re-elect Mrs Merkel as party chief today, rallying behind her bid to stay in power.
Mrs Merkel, who has led Germany for 11 years, last month confirmed that she would run for a fourth term, but acknowledged that the election would be "more difficult" than any other she had contested.
She has come under fire for her "open doors" approach to the refugee crisis.
Germany saw about 890,000 asylum-seekers arrive last year, many after Mrs Merkel decided in September 2015 to let in migrants who were stuck in Hungary.
Last night, she said that situation "should not and must not be repeated".
"That was and is our, and my, declared political aim," she said.
Thomas de Maiziére, the interior minister and one of Mrs Merkel's closest allies, first announced the CDU's burka ban policy in August.
"We all reject the full veil - not only the burka but also other types of full veil that only leave the eyes visible," Mr Maiziére said at the time.
"They have no place in our society. Showing your face is essential for our communication, co-existence and social cohesion and that's why we're asking everyone to show their faces," he said.
"We want to introduce a law to make people show their faces and that means that those who break that law will have to face the consequences."
Mrs Merkel also made her own feelings on the issue clear in an interview with a number of German newspapers in August.
"In my view, a fully veiled woman has almost no chance of integrating successfully in German society," she said.