German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her controversial decision to admit over a million Muslim refugees in 2015, and insisted she had no regrets, saying she would take the big decisions “the same way again.”
Via: Maïa de La Baume
In an interview published in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper four weeks before Germany’s September 24 federal election, Merkel said she had decided to open borders to migrants fleeing war and turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan because the situation was “extraordinary.” At the time, Germany took in more than 1 million refugees.
“It was an extraordinary situation and I made my decision based on what I thought was right from a political and humanitarian standpoint,” she told the Welt am Sonntag.
“I’d make all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again,” Merkel added.
However, she admitted that “for some time we didn’t have enough control” at Germany’s border.
“No one wants a repeat of last year’s situation, including me,” said Merkel who is likely to be reelected for a fourth term in September.
Her migration policy caused outrage among some at the time, leading to a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
On Sunday, Merkel argued that Germany was a democracy, and “everyone can freely express themselves in public the way they want.” “It’s important that we don’t go out of our way to avoid certain areas only because there are a bunch of people screaming,” she added.
She also said she would continue pushing for a fair distribution of refugees around Europe because Greece and Italy were bearing a disproportionate burden of the refugee crisis “simply because of their geography.”
“That some countries refuse to accept any refugees is not on,” she said, referring to Central European states including Poland and Hungary that have refused to take Muslim migrants. “That contradicts the spirit of Europe. We’ll overcome that. It will take time and patience but we will succeed.”
Merkel also said that she would help the German car industry and move beyond the Dieselgate scandal in which it emerged that vehicles from several manufacturers put out far less harmful emissions in test scenarios than in real-life driving.
Asked if she thought the internal combustion engine would soon be a thing of the past as some predict, Merkel said diesel motors, which generally offer better fuel efficiency than petrol-powered cars, wouldn’t disappear anytime soon. “We need diesel autos in order to achieve our carbon emission goals in the coming years. They offer a considerable advantage compared to petrol cars, but we need to work on reducing the nitrogen oxide emissions of diesels.”
Merkel’s remarks come against the backdrop of the diesel scandal in Germany, which has shaken the country’s auto industry and many car owners who worry that health risks associated with diesel fumes could lead to driving bans in cities.
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