Merkel praised for admitting refugee policy mistakes
Angela Merkel has endured a torrid time of it of late, facing harsh criticism from her own allies over her refugee policy. But a mea culpa offered on Monday won the Chancellor praise.
“I believe she has done a really respectable thing,” the Christian Social Union’s (CSU) deputy leader Christian Schmidt said.
“The Chancellor’s statement is very striking. She’s really done something substantial,” Schmidt's party colleague Marcus Söder said.
It has been a long time since so much praise has been poured on the German Chancellor from the leadership of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
In fact over the past year the two parties, which form the Union, a powerful conservative alliance which has governed Germany for the past 11 years, have been feuding like at few other points in their history.
The CSU's leader Horst Seehofer has even threatened to take legal action against Merkel over a refugee policy which led to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arriving in Germany in 2015.
Earlier this month, the CSU published a policy paper calling for harsh restrictions on refugee rights, including an yearly upper limit on the number of asylum seekers of 200,000.
For a long time Merkel refused to concede that there had been holes in her policy, insisting that she had acted correctly in difficult circumstances.
But after two stinging state election defeats for the CDU in September, the latest a miserable 18 percent showing in Berlin, the Chancellor backtracked on Monday.
"If I could, I would turn back time many, many years to better prepare myself, the federal government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation we were rather unprepared for in the late summer of 2015," Merkel said.
There would not be a repeat of the mass influx in the second half of that year, she assured.
The mea culpa was the cause for the outbreak of praise from the CSU, who are interpreting it as a signal that the Chancellor is set to follow a less liberal refugee policy in the future.
The CSU’s leader in the Bundestag (German parliament) meanwhile called on the warring factions to put their differences aside, as national elections approach next autumn.
“We need to find a common language on the one point of conflict which exists between the CSU and CDU,” Gerda Hasselfeldt said.
“Whether we call it an upper limit, benchmark or guidance level - the CDU and CSU have the same goal: to reduce and restrict the number of refugees.”
But the CSU leadership was careful to emphasize that they now wanted to see Merkel take concrete steps to implement a course change.
"Of course actions must follow words," Bavarian finance minister Söder said, adding that for the CSU, the idea of an upper limit on refugees was not negotiable.