After getting pummeled in recent elections and polls, Angela Merkel seems to be finally coming around to the notion that German citizens may not be that supportive of her "open-door" policies which have resulted in over 1 million migrants flowing into Germany in just a year. Speaking in Vienna at a meeting with nine other heads of government, Merkel proclaimed that "Germany has done enough" and called on the rest of the EU to do more saying "other EU countries will have to jump in.”
The Vienna summit included leaders of nations along the Balkans migrant route and was called in a bid to unblock disagreements at the heart of the immigration problem. Per the Sunday Express, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern commiserated with Merkel saying “you will never be able to close a border completely, but for Germany it’s been too much and I understand the concern.”
As for Austria, Kern has called for a financial deal with Northern African countries as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan along the same lines of the EU-Turkey deal that would involve returning migrants in exchange for travel visas and financial aid.
The controversial EU-Turkey deal gives Greece the ability to send back Syrian migrants to Turkey in exchange for the EU providing Turks with visa-free travel across Europe as well as financial aid. That said, the agreement has stirred some controversy in Europe as Turkey has refused to change its counter-terror policy, and even pulled its border control guards from Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The disputes have left thousands stranded on Greek islands after Austria and its Balkan neighbors shut their borders, closing off the migrant route to western Europe.
As a result of the growing tensions with Turkey, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is famous for his hardline on immigration and has built reinforced fences on his borders, has called for preparations to be made in the event the EU-Turkey deal collapses. Orban said that backup plans must be established now because "when the migrants descend on us and trouble arrives it will be too late to reach for blueprints, for fences, for physical barriers, for new police and soldiers."
All of this comes after the CDU's latest disastrous showing in last week's Berlin election, which as reported last week 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 Berlin's 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 she was “fighting” to make sure that there would be no repetition of the chaotic scenes on Germany’s borders like 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.”
Merkel also 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.
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, Merkel is seemingly starting to wake up to the fact that the only alternative is watching as her approval rating implodes in not so slow-motion, and as her CDU continues to tank in future elections.
And speaking of the surge in AfD, late last week Reuters reported that the the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party would capture 16% of the vote if a federal election were held now, according to an opinion poll on Friday, the most support it has drawn in a poll in history.
The poll released by public broadcaster ARD said Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives would get 32% of the vote, while the Social Democrats, junior partner in the ruling coalition, would get 22%. Together they would have 54 percent, enough for the ruling "grand coalition" to continue, at least for the time being.
The AfD made huge gains in two regional elections this month and will now have seats in 10 of 16 state assemblies, benefiting from a backlash against Merkel's open-door refugee policy and the arrival of nearly a million migrants last year. The next federal election is a year from now. The party's latest score of 16 percent is more than three times the 5 percent it would need to win seats in the Bundestag or parliament for the first time.