Merkel admits mistakes in refugee policy

After electoral defeats for her conservative CDU party in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, German Chancellor Merkel has admitted to making mistakes in her refugee policy in recent years. Merkel has not shown enough contrition, some commentators argue. Others see her as morally victorious - even if she fails politically.

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Népszabadság (HU) /

Politically washed up, morally victorious

Even if Merkel's fate is sealed by her refugee policy, unlike the cynical and calculating Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán she is on the right side, Népszabadság writes in praise:

“It could be that in the short or long term Angela Merkel fails with her 'welcome culture'. The daughter of a protestant priest, she has at least tried to do something which - independently of her success or failure - deserves great respect. Her decision was morally correct. She can be accused of being naive, irresponsible and misguided, but by no means immoral. If she fails, everyone will know that it was for a good cause. ... By comparison, exactly the opposite can be said about Viktor Orbán. He has cynically exploited the refugee crisis for his own political interests and appealed to the worst side of the Hungarian national spirit. He can in no way be seen as having acted in a moral way.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

Merkel's self-criticism is half-hearted

For the first time since the start of the migration crisis Merkel has taken stock of her policy, but only briefly, Echo 24 writes:

“It was an attempt to don the sackcloth and ashes, but not for long enough for someone to have to wash her down afterwards. For those who don't want Europe to become part of the Middle East, it wasn't much. Only Merkel's downfall would be sufficient warning to other politicians that opening Europe's borders is a suicidal policy and that even in the country with the most obedient electorate you can't pursue a policy against the voters' will for more than a year. Admittedly Merkel has an advantage. Since 2000 the CDU, under her leadership, has gradually turned into a party that doesn't question its leaders. … The CDU may be the most important party in the EU but it is controlled by opportunists and mediocre politicians. History is beginning to take its revenge.”

Duma (BG) /

Chancellor's admission comes too late

The German chancellor's admission that she made mistakes over refugee policy comes far too late, the daily paper Duma complains:

“The more courageous among Europe's politicians have been telling her this to her face for some time. … Then her coalition partners rebelled, and now the German people have castigated her - first in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, then in Berlin - to make it clear that they've had enough. These were protest votes against the chancellor's refugee policy, and the Christian Democrats' poor results are clear proof of it. Merkel's aloofness and misconceived solidarity, impossible to implement in a crisis situation, weigh heavily here. Clearly Merkel is now feeling the pressure and has finally realized that she must take the concerns of her people seriously rather than blindly taking care of all the new arrivals.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Mea culpa is not capitulation

Anyone who expects Merkel to repent and abandon her refugee policy - or even the political arena - is mistaken, the Irish Times comments:

“She quite correctly observed that polling showing high levels of dissatisfaction with these failings does not advise her what to do about them. ... She quite correctly argues against conflating refugee and anti-terrorism policy. Alternatives to her leadership of the CDU are few in number and quality. She is still expected to lead the party into two major länder elections next year before the federal vote next September. Setbacks for governing parties are common in Germany’s regional elections between national ones. And while it is important to realise the historic significance of the AfD’s breakthrough to become the first party to the right of the CDU, there are countervailing trends.These include stronger performances by the Greens and the Left party which, by and large, support Mrs Merkel’s refugee policy.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Upward trend once more possible

Now that Ms Merkel has admitted having made mistakes in her refugee policy things may improve for the CDU, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“The fact that the influx of refugees has led to such heavy losses for the CDU is partly the result of the Merkel chancellery's key promise, which boiled down to this: globalization is triggering major upheaval all over the world, and Europe is going through difficult times. But as your chancellor I will ensure that it doesn't affect you and you don't have to worry. This promise sedated the political debate in Germany, and until last autumn it worked. … It won't be easy for the CDU to win back lost voters. Too much resentment and racism has built up in Germany. But after Merkel's statement on Monday there is at least a chance of peace within the CDU - and hence an end to the party's downwards spiral in elections.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Will voters listen to Merkel?

There is no guarantee that Merkel's message will reach voters at all, Der Standard believes:

“After a series of lost elections the CDU had been putting increasing pressure on Merkel, letting her know that something needed to change, and fast. So she has expressed remorse and self-criticism as she has never done before, saying she made mistakes and would like to turn back time. ... That's a bit different from the eternal 'We can do it', which she'd been championing until recently and which she's now given up because no one can bear to hear it anymore. Because that is just what a growing number of Germans are worried about, even if there are fewer refugees now than there were before: that the influx will continue for years to come. One thing is still unclear, however: whether the voters will listen to Merkel's new message at all.”