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Deutschland Berlin PK Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

Merkel discusses mistakes in migrant policy

August 31, 2016

Germany and other EU countries turned a blind eye to displaced people for too long, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said. She also cautioned against some politicians' rhetoric on the influx of migrants.


Angela Merkel has largely held to her August 31, 2015, assertion that "we can do this" (German: "Wir schaffen das.") in an interview with Germany's "Süddeutsche Zeitung" daily. Her now famous statement was in regard to Germany's ability to take in hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

The chancellor, who has faced months of criticism for her optimism, told SZ that Germany and other EU states failed to react to mounting evidence of a crisis.

"There are political issues that one can see coming but don't really register with people at that certain moment - and in Germany, we ignored both the problem for too long and blocked out the need to find a pan-European solution," Merkel said.

She added that Germany also erred in years past when it "rejected a proportional distribution of refugees" by shifting responsibility for displaced people to the European Union's maritime borders for over a decade.

Has Merkel's policy on migration changed over the past year?

Germany has now taken in most of the more than 1 million migrants from the Middle East and Asia who arrived in the European Union last year.

In the interview, Merkel admonished German politicians to express themselves in moderate terms and not participate in the current ratcheting up of rhetoric about threats from abroad.

"It's simply incorrect to say that terrorism came only with the refugees," Merkel told SZ. "It was already here in myriad forms and with the various potential attackers that we have been watching."

Infografik Wie verändert Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik Deutschland? Bunter Englisch

'Deeply convinced'

Merkel's self-criticism was published to coincide with the anniversary of her initial "wir schaffen das" exhortation. She noted in the interview that she was "deeply convinced" when she said those words to the nation.

"Germany will remain Germany - with all that is dear to us," Merkel told SZ. "But Germany has undergone constant change since the beginning of the federal republic. Change is nothing bad. It's a necessary part of life."

mkg/gsw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, kna)

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