After the CDU's latest disastrous showing in Sunday's Berlin election, which as reported last night saw Germany's conservative party end second with only 17.6% of the vote, dropping 5.7% from the 2011 election, and marking its worst performance in the capital since German reunification, Angela Merkel took responsibility for her party’s disastrous showing in Sunday’s Berlin state election, "admitting mistakes in her handling of last year’s refugee crisis."
As reported by the Guardian, in an unusually self-critical but also combative speech, the German chancellor said on Monday afternoon she was “fighting” to make sure that there would be no repetition of the chaotic scenes on Germany’s borders last year, when “for some time, we didn’t have enough control” adding that “No one wants this to be repeated, and I don’t either,” Ms. Merkel said of last year’s refugee influx at Germany’s borders. “We have learned from history."
Angela Merkel, said: ‘No one wants a repeat of last year’s situation, including me’.
Still, Merkel did not distance herself from her decision last September to keep open Germany’s borders to thousands of refugees stranded at Budapest’s Keleti station. The mistake, the chancellor said, was that she and her government had not been quicker to prepare for the mass movement of people triggered by conflicts in the Middle East.
“If I could, I would turn back time many, many years to be able to better prepare myself and the whole government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation that met us rather unprepared in late summer 2015,” Ms. Merkel said at a news conference at her party’s headquarters in the German capital.
As the WSJ adds, Merkel reacted to her party’s latest electoral loss by sticking to her migration policy on Monday but acknowledging, more explicitly than before, that she had made mistakes along the way. Merkel described her center-right Christian Democratic Union’s second-place performance in Sunday’s election in the city-state of Berlin as a “very unsatisfactory, disappointing” result. She acknowledged widespread public discomfort with the influx of more than a million asylum applicants to Germany this year and last and said that she heard voters’ concerns.
Nevertheless, Ms. Merkel—whose steadfast refusal to close the German border to asylum seekers has become a focal point in the global debate over how to treat refugees—said she would stick to her current policy. She said she was guided both by a conviction that Germany has a duty to take in people in need but also that the sort of chaotic, mass influx of people as this country experienced last year had to be prevented.
That said, perhaps confirming the realization she may have made a mistake, on Saturday she said she would no longer use "we can do it" as her rallying cry to welcome and integrate migrants in the belief it has become a mere slogan, the local.de reported. Merkel first used the much-repeated phrase at the end of August last year to lay out her welcoming stance on migrants, after saying Germany could cope with an influx of around one million refugees, many fleeing the war in Syria. But as the worst migrant crisis in Europe since World War II has continued Merkel has come under pressure and her approval ratings have plunged.
But back to Sunday's election, where Germany’s two governing establishment parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic party (SPD) on Sunday night both plummeted to the worst Berlin result in their parties’ histories, while both leftwing Die Linke and anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) enjoyed impressive gains.
On Monday, Merkel admitted she had in the past failed to sufficiently explain her refugee policy, and that her phrase “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do it ”) had “provoked” some of those who didn’t agree with her political course. Her words will be interpreted as an olive branch to the leader of her CDU’s sister party, the Bavarian CSU, who have in recent months repeatedly called on her to distance herself from the much-cited slogan.
For too long, Merkel said, she had relied on the Dublin procedure, “which, to put it simply, had taken the problem off Germany’s hands”, adding: “And that was not good”.
The 62-year-old also rebutted the CSU’s calls for a “static upper limit” to the amount of asylum seekers Germany could accept in 2016, arguing that it “would not solve the problem”. Banning people from entering the country on the basis of their religion, she said, would be incompatible with Germany’s constitution and her own party’s “ethical foundation”.
Of course, one alternative is watching as her approval rating implodes in not so slow-motion, and as her CDU continues to tank in future elections.
Merkel lamented that the European Union as a whole was failing to recognise the refugee as “a global and a moral challenge”. “What we are seeing in Europe is a realisation that we are no longer leading the field when it comes to globalisation, we are not setting the pace.
“In 1990, when the wall fell, the cold war came to an end and freedom blossomed everywhere; it looked like we were on an irreversible road to victory, and that it was just up to the rest of the world to join our model. Freedom had won. It now turns out things aren’t that simple”.
Somewhere George Soros is smiling.