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Merkel accepts partial blame for Berlin defeat

Jefferson ChaseSeptember 19, 2016

One day after her conservative party got hammered in Berlin's local election, Chancellor Angela Merkel took responsibility for the loss. She also said there would be no repeat of "uncontrolled" immigration.

Deutschland Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Merkel accepts responsibility for election defeat

In her first news conference after her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) recorded its worst-ever showing in a Berlin election, Merkel took partial responsibility for that defeat while again blaming opposition to her refugee policies on communication shortcomings.

"I'm the party chairwoman, and I'm not going to duck responsibility," Merkel told reporters. "If one of the reasons for the CDU's poor showing is that the direction, goal and conviction behind our refugee policy haven't been explained well enough, I'll endeavor to rectify that."

Merkel admitted that some Germans may have objected to her declaration, "We'll get it done," when faced with hundreds of thousands of refugees and said it wasn't meant to imply that it would be easy to deal with the influx. She also said Germany lacked sufficient practice integrating immigrants.

"It can't be done quickly, among other things because we didn't do everything correctly in past years," Merkel said. "We weren't exactly world champions in integration, and we waited too long before we addressed the refugee issue. We have to get better - I do as well."

Merkel said Germany had placed too much faith in agreements to share refugees among European nations.

"For a long time, I, too, relied on the Dublin procedure that seemed to promise to relieve us Germans of the problem - that wasn't good," Merkel said. "If I could, I'd turn back the clock many years in order to better prepare the government for the situation that hit us in the summer of 2015."

Infografik Abgeordnetenhauswahl Berlin 2016 Englisch

No repeat of 2015

Merkel admitted that there were problems in housing refugees, that the process of applying for asylum was too long, and that most of the work of integrating refugees into the labor market still lay ahead. She said that for ethical reasons neither she nor her party could change course and reject refugees, Muslim or non-Muslim.

But she also said she understood frustration with last year's situation, which she blamed on a "humanitarian emergency."

"If people are saying that the situation of uncontrolled, unregistered immigration should not be repeated, then I'll fight for that not to be repeated," said Merkel. "No one wants that situation, and neither do I."

Some 1.1 million migrants and refugees arrived in Germany in 2015. Merkel said that fewer refugees were coming and that more was being done to combat human trafficking.

She once again called upon the EU to reach a common position on refugees. Concluding with an emotional appeal to critics, she expressed belief that Germany would emerge stronger from the refugee crisis.

But with local elections and a national vote looming in the coming year, she will need to start convincing critics well before that.