Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germans should be happy they’re rich as refugees flock to their country and rejected fear of Muslims as a reason to wall off Europe.
Merkel’s comments to a university audience in Bern, Switzerland, strengthen her insistence that Germany can handle the 800,000 or more asylum seekers her government estimates will arrive this year.
“We’re one of the most prosperous countries in the world,” she said Thursday. “As Germans, we have also seen times when we weren’t necessarily the country that people wanted to go to. It’s our good fortune that Germany today is a country that inspires hope in people.”
Germany plans to present a package of measures for handling the influx, including extra spending and faster processing to distinguish economic migrants and people fleeing war, on Sept. 24. With attacks against refugee shelters on the rise, Merkel has also pledged zero tolerance for racism.
She rebuffed an audience member in Bern who asked how Merkel wants to protect “our culture” against “the Islamization of Europe.”
“Cultures and societies that are dominated by fear definitely won’t master the future,” Merkel said. In Germany, with 4 million Muslim residents, debating whether Islam “is a part of Germany” is a moot point and a “very defensive” way of framing the matter, she said.