Angela Merkel calls for a burka ban
Angela Merkel has called for a burka ban after saying the ‘full veil is not appropriate’ in Germany.
In an astonishing U-turn, the German chancellor told her conservative CDU party conference that wearing the burka should be outlawed ‘wherever that is legally possible’.
It comes after the 62-year-old stressed her determination to ensure there is no repeat of last year’s huge migrant influx as she seeks a fourth term as chancellor.
Merkel said she would back a nationwide ban just months after revealing that she believed the burka was a barrier to Muslim women becoming integrated into German society.
She told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland in August: ‘From my point of view, a completely covered woman has almost no chance of integrating herself in Germany.’
Previously, Merkel has stopped short of calling for a ban on Islamic clothing, saying: ‘This is a question of finding the right political and legal balance.’
Her new, tougher stance comes a week after Dutch MPs voted overwhelmingly to ban the Islamic full-face veil from some public places such as schools and hospitals, the latest such move in a European country.
The legislation must now go before the Senate for approval before becoming law. It follows similar bans imposed in France and Belgium, and comes amid rising tensions in Europe with Islamic communities.
Merkel came out fighting on the first day of her conservative party congress pledging to ban the burka and bring the refugee crisis under control.
A 77 minute speech interrupted by minutes of standing ovations proved the most powerful woman on the continent still has what it takes to rally the faithful.
She pledged to strengthen the forces of law and order while speeding up the sclerotic deportation process of failed asylum seekers.
‘Not all the 890,000 refugees who came last year can or will stay,’ she said at the start of her speech designed to claw back ground lost in recent months to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
But the pastor’s daughter who was raised in communist East Germany pledged that every asylum application would be judged on its merits and that people would not be lumped into an ‘anonymous mass.’
She said that a refugee situation of the kind Germany had endured in the summer of last year ‘can and should not be repeated.’
And she pledged that the law of the land stood above ‘any honour codes or Sharia.’
Mrs Merkel’s critical speech came as tensions continue to rise following the brutal rape and murder of a 19-year-old medical student by an Afghan refugee.
She criticised the groundswell of Internet hate against migrants. She said that she often had the opinion that those who wrote them needed an ‘integration course’ more than the newcomers.
She said the tasteless online attacks shocked and sickened her. ‘So say I, so say we; this must not be.’
She said she recognized that the general election of next year was like ‘none other’ and that it would not be ‘like swallowing a sugar drop.’
She pledged a stronger Europe, a stronger economic base for Germany and a stronger commitment to achieving peace in Syria. At the end of it she was rewarded with a standing ovation of over 11 minutes.
Germany saw about 890,000 asylum-seekers arrive last year, many after Ms Merkel decided in September 2015 to let in migrants who were stuck in Hungary.
Numbers have since declined sharply, but Ms Merkel’s approach to the migrant crisis has provoked discord within her Christian Democratic Union party, which has seen a string of poor state election results this year.
‘A situation like the one in the late summer of 2015 cannot, should not and must not be repeated,’ Ms Merkel told party delegates at a congress in the western city of Essen.
‘That was and is our, and my, declared political aim,’ she said.
While Ms Merkel has continued to insist that Germany will take in people in genuine need of protection, her government has moved to toughen asylum rules and declare several countries ‘safe’ – meaning people from there cannot expect to get refuge in Germany.
Ms Merkel was a driving force behind an agreement between the European Union and Turkey earlier this year to stem the flow of migrants.
Ms Merkel announced last month that she will seek a fourth four-year term as chancellor in an election expected next September. Her springboard to that run is re-election as the chairwoman of the CDU.
The vote in Essen, where she was first elected chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union in 2000, offers a test of Ms Merkel’s standing with members.
Aside from unhappiness about her migrant policy, some members are grumbling about what is perceived as a wider drift to the left during her 11 years as chancellor.
Polls show a solid lead for the conservatives, though their support is well short of the 41.5% they won in Germany’s 2013 election.
They face new competition from the upstart nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which has thrived by attacking Ms Merkel’s migrant policies.
She is running unopposed for another term at the CDU’s helm. Two years ago, she won the support of 96.7% of delegates, one of her best results.
Beyond domestic issues, Merkel also devoted a large part of her address today to crises abroad as she noted that in 2016, ‘the world has not become stronger and more stable, but weaker and more unstable’.
She deplored the failure of the international community to alleviate the suffering in Syria’s besieged city of Aleppo, calling it a ‘disgrace’.
Merkel said she was shocked to see tens of thousands of Germans hitting the streets to demonstrate against free trade deals but virtually no protests against the bloodletting in Syria.
‘There is something wrong there,’ she said.
She also underlined the importance of holding the European Union together, saying Germany will do well ‘only when Europe does well too.’
In the face of the mountain of challenges, Merkel urged her delegates: ‘You must, you must, help me.’