- Rejects senior minister's image of a refugee `avalanche'
- Other German chancellors had their own struggles, she says
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she’s determined to fight for her open-door policy on refugees, bucking pressure within her governing party to restrict the number of arrivals.
In a prime-time interview on national television Friday, Merkel sought to build support for her stance as Germany expects at least 800,000 migrants and refugees to arrive this year. The European Union can’t cap the flow, free movement across borders between EU countries must be upheld and talks on enlisting Turkey to help stop the flow to Europe are advancing, she said.
“I’m not the first federal chancellor who has to struggle,” Merkel said in the half-hour interview with broadcaster ZDF. “It’s not a question of confidence. The point is that I’m fighting, fighting for the approach I have in mind.”
Merkel slapped down Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who caused a stir this week by likening the influx of refugees to an avalanche triggered by “a slightly careless skier,” though he didn’t say whom he had in mind. Schaeuble has served in Merkel’s cabinet since she took office in 2005, placing him at her side throughout Europe’s debt crisis.
“Wolfgang Schaeuble is in a class of his own,” Merkel said. “Then again, there are points where I see things differently. I don’t think in those kinds of images. A lot of people are coming to us, but each individual has his dignity.”
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, whose Social Democrats are Merkel’s junior coalition partner, said earlier that her Christian Democratic bloc needs to “get it together” and show unity.
Asked whether her political future was at risk, Merkel told ZDF she was elected for a full term. She stuck by her view that the refugee exodus can only be tackled at its roots and by defending the EU’s outer border, notably the sea between Greece and Turkey, which isn’t an EU member.
“We have to return to a condition where the outer borders are protected,” Merkel said. “I believe that we’ll make it.”
For all the turmoil, a twice-monthly poll suggested the decline in support for Merkel and her party has halted. Her personal approval rating was steady after three consecutive declines, and her Christian Democrat-led bloc held at 39 percent after polling 42 percent as recently as September. Schaeuble remains Germany’s most popular politician, according to the Nov. 10-12 FG Wahlen poll of 1,262 people for ZDF television.