Posts Tagged ‘Hungary.’

Amnesty International Secretary General Says President Duterte Runs a “War on the Poor” — “The national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from murder”

October 8, 2017
Speaking about corruption during the One Young World Summit on Thursday (Friday in Manila), AI secretary general Salil Shetty cited Duterte as among the world leaders who fail to directly address significant issues hounding their respective constituencies. PCOO/Released

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – An official of international human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) criticized President Duterte during a youth summit here attended by over 1,300 international delegates.

Speaking about corruption during the One Young World Summit on Thursday (Friday in Manila), AI secretary general Salil Shetty cited Duterte as among the world leaders who fail to directly address significant issues hounding their respective constituencies.

“What (Donald) Trump is doing in the United States is not unique to the US,” Shetty said, referring to the US President’s controversial policies such as the ban on Muslims and refugees.

“Instead of dealing with issues such as corruption, inequality, discrimination, racial injustices, what he does and other leaders – take Duterte in the Philippines for example and (Prime Minister Viktor) Orbán in Hungary – instead of dealing with real issues, they divert their attention and (they use) particular parts of the community (as scapegoats),” he added.

Shetty did not provide additional details in his speech, although the organization is known to be a critic of Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs and the Hungarian government’s recent policy on foreign funding for non-government organizations.

AI claimed that the Philippine government may be held liable for crimes against humanity over the death of thousands in the so-called war on drugs.

“This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor. Often on the flimsiest of evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder,” the group claimed in its report in January.

“Under President Duterte’s rule, the national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from the murder of impoverished people the government was supposed to uplift. The same streets Duterte vowed to rid of crime are now filled with bodies of people illegally killed by his own police,” it added.

The Philippine government has denied the claims and maintained that the campaign is necessary to address the drug problem in the country.

In his speech, Shetty maintained that AI is a non-partisan organization that is focused on ensuring human rights for all.

“Amnesty International just says the truth the way it is. It doesn’t beat around the bush. We have no political agenda, no religious, no economic, no orthodoxy. The only thing we do is we stand up for human rights,” he said.

Youth vs. corruption

During the summit, Shetty and other advocates urged the youth to take part in efforts to address corruption and seek accountability from officials.

“Corruption affects everybody, but there is no question that it affects the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless significantly more,” he said.

“Young people are standing up against injustice, against corruption. It’s not that you always win that battle, it’s a tough battle, but victories are not uncommon,” he added.

Thuli Madonsela, former public protector of South Africa who is in charge of investigating misconduct of government officials, said the problem of corruption is systemic all around world.

“Young people should use technology to hold governments accountable,” she said.

“They need to send strong messages to those who want to govern that say that if you don’t end corruption, we will not vote for you,” added Madonsela, who is also part of the team that drafted South Africa’s constitution signed by former president Nelson Mandela.

Nobel Peace Prize 2011 laureate Tawakkol Karman said states need to put into place legislation that tackles corruption and promotes transparency.

“If we want to fight corruption, we need a strong constitution, stable institutions and strict laws,” she said.


Macron’s eurozone plans put eastern EU members on the spot

September 28, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron is impatient to reinvigorate the eurozone. But this puts the EU’s eastern members in a dilemma: stay out and risk losing clout in Brussels or join and risk losing economic sovereignty?

USA Präsident Macron vor der UN-Vollversammlung (Reuters/S. Stapleton)

Macron reiterated his view this week that a multi-speed Europe led by a core of ‘avant-garde’ countries could be the price worth paying for pushing the eurozone — and the European project more widely — forward in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

“We should imagine a Europe of several formats — going further with those who want to advance, while not being held back by states which want to progress slower or not as far,” Macron said.

“It appears that Macron would like a tighter, more centralized eurozone with France and Germany at its heart,” Liam Carson of Capital Economics told DW. “However, he remained fairly vague on euro-zone specifics, probably because of the worse than expected outcome for [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel in the German election.”

But Macron’s words have fallen on some deaf ears in Central and Eastern Europe, a region struggling with political uncertainty and growing Euroskepticism, despite continued strong growth.

Of the nine new member states that joined the EU in 2004-2009, the Baltic countries, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta have adopted the euro, while Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia have not yet done so.

Critics argue that speeding up the process of monetary — as a precursor to fiscal — integration might fuel the overheating that was seen in Southern Europe after the 2007-8 financial crisis and subsequent recession.

But, “if the eurozone can generate growth throughout the 19 nations and not just the center, then any new institutions may prompt the non-euro members to want to join. If not, then the divisions would surely widen,” Linda Yueh, a professor of Economics at London Business School, told DW.

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‘It’s now or never’

Will Hutton, a British economist, told DW that while a two-speed Europe is a risk, “the time has come for this. Macron’s plans are the biggest boost to Europe since the early 1990s, the era of Jacques Delors.”

“Sure, Macron is using Merkel’s weakness, but Europe is on the cusp of an economic run and while some eastern European economies might not be able to stand the pace, Europe can’t go on at the speed of the slowest for much longer,” Hutton said, adding that the UK might even be knocking back on the EU’s door in the next five to ten years.

All non-euro EU member states except Denmark and the UK are already legally obligated to work toward adopting the euro, by satisfying various “convergence criteria,” namely:

Inflation — Member states should have an average rate of inflation that doesn’t exceed that of the three best-performing member states by over 1.5 percent for a period of one year before being assessed.

Government budgets — Member states’ ratio of planned or actual government deficit to GDP should be no more than three percent. Their ratio of government debt to GDP should be no more than 60 percent.

Exchange Rates — Member states should have respected the normal fluctuation margins of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) and should not have devalued their currency against any other member state’s currency for at least the two years before being assessed.

Interest rates — Member states should have had an average interest rate over a period of one year before being assessed that does not exceed by more than two percentage points that of the three best-performing member states.

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Central & Eastern Europe: weary and ​​​​​wary 

“It seems unlikely that any of the major economies in Central and Eastern Europe will adopt the euro any time soon,” Carson says.

“With respect to the criteria, as things stand, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic all meet the debt, interest rate and inflation criteria for joining,” although he added that there is a good chance that loose fiscal policy in Poland and Romania will cause budget deficits to widen beyond the 3 percent of GDP threshold by next year.

“Hungary’s deficit could also widen beyond 3 percent of GDP and with public debt still well above 60 percent of GDP, it also fails the debt criteria.”

“More importantly, political appetite for joining the euro is generally waning. Accession to the eurozone in Poland and Hungary is unlikely to happen under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) and Fidesz governments, which have both become increasingly hostile towards EU oversight of domestic policy,” Carson says.

“Poland’s opposition is based on ideological grounds, but also public support is not sufficient. In the Czech Republic the main obstacle is public support. Most of the parties would have been open to introducing the euro, but public opinion has prevented that so far. In Hungary there is strong public support and a governmental decision ahead of the 2018 elections might be a popular step,” Daniel BarthaExecutive Director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID)  in Budapest, told DW.

The Palace of Culture and Science in WarsawPoliticians in Warsaw have warned that the creation of a multi-speed Europe could “break apart” the EU.


“Brexit is not a risk for the EU … A bigger threat is if the EU starts to break apart into a multi-speed union, into blocs where some are stronger and can decide about others,” President Andrzej Duda said this month. “The result could be a divided EU that’s not politically or economically viable, which may break apart the bloc,” he added.

The bedrock of common understanding that Merkel and ex-Polish PM Donald Tusk shared is now long gone. And ties between Warsaw and Paris have been strained since August after Macron’s speech criticizing what he called Warsaw’s attack on democracy and a French plan to tighten rules on EU posted workers, such as Polish truck drivers.

The Law and Justice (PiS) government has also taken aim at Germany, demanding war reparations, attacking plans to build a second Nord Stream gas pipeline to Russia that bypasses Poland and being highly critical of its western neighbor’s policies towards refugees.

Nonetheless, Poland will start to debate whether to join the eurozone when the bloc becomes a stable and transparent entity, Konrad Szymanski, the Polish deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, has said.

About 80 percent of Polish international trade is accountable in euros, so entering the eurozone will significantly decrease currency risk and simplify transactions with foreign companies. Despite this, over two-thirds of Poles oppose joining the euro area.

Prague, the Czech capitalA general election to be held October 20-21, will show whether the Czechs will seek to join the EU hard core.

Czech Republic

The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wants his country to set a date for the adoption of the euro and has “the ambition to belong among the most advanced European countries.”

The Czech Republic has been cautious about joining the euro, on both the left and the right. No firm date has been set and in recent years governments have shied away from making predictions.

The country has a long reputation for running a credible monetary policy and traditionally has had interest rates below those in the eurozone.

“In the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, who is the heavy favourite to become Prime Minister following next month’s elections, has continued to strongly reiterate that the Czech Republic shouldn’t adopt the currency,” according to Carson.


Hungarian economic policy cannot abandon its long-term intention of joining the eurozone, “but there is no rush,” the economy minister, Mihaly Varga, said in June. Vargo said a currency system where monetary policy is unified but fiscal policy is not is also a viable route.

But a senior Hungarian politician said in early August that Hungary could only consider adopting the euro when its level of economic development is closer to that of the eurozone countries.

“That is, if there is genuine convergence,” Andras Tallai, state secretary at the economy ministry, said.

Hungarian parliament bulilding is seen as ice floes float on the Danube river in Budapest In 2013, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán proclaimed euro adoption would not happen until the country’s purchasing power parity weighted GDP per capita had reached 90 percent of the eurozone average.

“Otherwise, Hungary could be the loser of accession similar to some Mediterranean countries,” he went on, adding that Hungary won’t yet enter the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) — a kind of ante-chamber for eurozone aspirants — but already meets all of the Maastricht criteria for adopting the euro, with the exception of the forint not being pegged to the euro.

Hungary has to enter to the ERM2 (the exchange rate mechanism) and meet the criteria for 2 years constantly. Hungary meets all other criteria: inflation was 0.1 percent, the deficit 2.4 percent and interest rates are also around 1 percent, and although the debt level is beyond the 60 percent limit, as it is constantly reducing, Hungary also meet that criterion.


Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has said Romania will adopt the euro only after wages in the country come close to those in other EU member states.

Romania has second lowest minimum monthly wage out of 20 EU member states, of 1,450 lei ($341/321 euro), after Bulgaria, according to a study by KPMG.

A study conducted last November by the European Institute of Romania showed that the country could join the Eurozone 13 years from now – if it sustains the average growth rate of the last 15 years.

Currently, Romania is below 60 percent of the European Union average in terms of GDP per capita.

“The story is slightly different in Romania. The foreign minister, Teodor Melescanu, recently announced that Romania will adopt the euro. However, he stated that this won’t happen until 2022. And given that previous plans to adopt the euro have been shelved, this date could easily be delayed. In short, Romania won’t become a member of the euro-zone any time soon,” Carson says.

Frankreich PK Migrationsgipfel in Paris (Reuters/C. Platiau)Angela Merkel is supporting Macron’s call for a new powerful eurozone finance minister post to oversee economic policy across the bloc. She said the new role could provide “greater coherence” to economic policy.

Merkel holds the key

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed a plan for a European Monetary Fund (EMF) that would redistribute money within the bloc to where it was needed.

Macron believes that the monetary union suffers from too little centralization and needs its own budget, while Merkel views the bloc’s problem as over-centralization and too little national responsibility.

Merkel has backed her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble‘s proposal to turn the European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone’s bailout fund, into the EMF, but she does not see the official possessing “expansive powers.”

Merkel has said she wants a budget of “small contributions” rather than “hundreds of billions of euros.”

France will implement these deep structural reforms on the proviso that Germany agrees to modest steps towards fiscal federalism in the eurozone. But many in Germany — and far beyond as well — appear skeptical about Macron’s ability to achieve his domestic goals.

Still, observers say, Merkel will want to help Macron politically as it is in Germany’s interests to see that he is not replaced at the next presidential election in France by Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

Merkel Warns Hungary of Financial Consequences of Defying EU on Migrants

September 15, 2017

BERLIN — Hungary could face financial consequences if it defies a European court ruling ordering it to accept its allocated share of refugees arriving in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a newspaper interview.

The remarks suggest a hardening of Germany’s line on the right-wing Hungarian government of Viktor Orban, who has been outspoken in his opposition to an agreement that each European Union country should agree to take in a quota of refugees.

Image result for Viktor Orban, photos

Viktor Orban

“Anyone who rejects this solidarity must accept that this will not be without consequences, including for negotiations over future financial support,” Merkel said in the interview with Nordwest Zeitung published on Friday.

Merkel’s tougher line, which comes a week before parliamentary elections in which the conservative is running for a fourth term as Chancellor, mirrors the position of Martin Schulz, her Social Democratic rival, who has long been a fierce critic of Orban’s nativist style.

More than 1.5 million migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe since 2015, many fleeing war in the Middle East.

The EU’s highest court ruled on Sept. 6 that member states must take in a share of the refugees, dismissing complaints by Slovakia and Hungary and reigniting an east-west row that has shaken the Union’s cohesion.

A suspension of financial support could have serious fiscal consequences for Hungary, which has prospered on the back of large claims on EU cohesion and development funds.

Hungary has been allocated 25 billion euros ($30 billion) in European Structural and Investment funds via a range of programs over the period 2014-2020, according to the European Union website.

Orban, who has built border fences and made keeping out migrants a key plank of his re-election campaign for next year, this week announced plans for a “national consultation” on Brussels’ plans to distribute asylum-seekers in the EU.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Jean-Claude Juncker shows the EU’s anti-democratic, anti-American bent — “Master Plan for Europe” — “The elites want to rule the rest of us.”

September 14, 2017

By Nigel Farage
The Telegraph
September 14, 2017

It was the biggest and boldest speech that we have seen from a European leader since the days of Jacques Delors. As the EU Commission President swept aside the issue of Brexit and the pesky Brits to set out his plans for a centralised EU state, I could not help feeling relieved that we had left in the nick of time.

Even the most fanatical of European federalists could not believe their ears as Juncker called for a more active foreign policy that removed the veto rights of every nation.

This is to be backed-up by a full EU defence union by 2025. The European army so easily dismissed by Nick Clegg and others as a fantasy is now becoming a worrying reality.

Juncker’s claim that all this was supported by Nato is simply a cover for the deep anti-Americanism that is never far from the surface in Brussels.

Read the rest (Paywall):


Farage slams Juncker’s silence on Brexit to protect EU dream

NIGEL Farage has ripped into Jean-Claude Juncker after his much-anticipated State of Union speech this morning to snub Britain by insisting the European Union (EU) will move towards greater integration despite Brexit.

Farage: Juncker’s speech will be more about what he doesn’t say


The former Ukip leader told the European Commission President’s speech “will be more about what he doesn’t say”.

He said: “My feeling right now is that this speech will be more about what he doesn’t say than what he does say and I shall say to him that actually by going for more Europe in response to Brexit you actually fuel the populism, as you call it, that led to Brexit.

“But hey, every plan changes on first contact with the enemy.”

Nigel Farage and Jean-Claude JunckerEXPRESS•EU PARLIMENT

Nigel Farage blasted Jean-Claude Juncker over his speech in speech in Strasbourg

This speech will be more about what he doesn’t say than what he does say

Nigel Farage

The MEP said the speech had been “very heavily trailed”.

He said: “We’re told he’s going to discuss a range of options for the future of the European Union, that he’s going to be incredibly upbeat, he’s going to say ‘the bad days are over, populism’s going to end, we’ve got this wonderful Monsieur Macron in France, the economy’s growing, which it is, and we’re headed for a new European renaissance’.

“So it’s going to be really very grand, we’re told he won’t even mention Brexit.”

Juncker on EU trade: ‘There HAS to be reciprocity’
The EU chief is to set out his 12-month masterplan this morning to steer the troubled bloc through the escalating refugee crisis and reform the eurozone.

The European Commission president is expected to barely mention Brexit in his address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg as he instead focuses on the EU’s future without Britain.Keen to push ahead with his masterplan, billed as the biggest reboot in the EU’s history, Mr Juncker will aim to ratchet up the federalisation of the 60-year-old bloc’s core economies.

The Brussels boss is also expected to call for greater EU integration in the face of rising populism after Britain voted to sever ties with the bloc ahead of crunch elections in Italy, Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic, where eurosceptic parties are gaining momentum.

Hungarian PM Orban Says Will Fight After EU Ruling on Migrant Quota — Threats against the EU’s rules and “immoral.”

September 8, 2017

BUDAPEST — Hungary will not change its stance on immigration after the European Union’s top court dismissed a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia against migrant quotas, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Image result for news for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, photos

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

“We must take note of the ruling as we cannot erode the foundation of the EU — and respect of law is the foundation of the EU — but at the same time this court ruling is no reason for us to change our policy which rejects migrants,” Orban told state radio.

Orban also said, responding to a letter by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, that creating a link between the question of immigration and EU cohesion funding was against the EU’s rules and was “immoral.”

(Reporting by Krisztina Than, editing by Larry King)

EU threatens Hungary, Poland with fines if refuse refugees

September 6, 2017

Image result for refugees, med, boats, photos

File photo — Migrants try to cross the Mediterranean Sea to freedom in the EU. TORM A/S

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU executive said on Wednesday it was ready to institute court proceedings within weeks that could lead to fines for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic if they refuse to take in asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece.

Speaking to reporters after the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), upheld the legality of quotas for states to take migrants relocated from the Mediterranean, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said:

“If the member states that have not relocated at all or not for a long time do not change their approach in the coming weeks, we should then consider to take the last step in the infringement procedure, taking Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to the European Court of Justice.”

The ECJ has the power to levy financial penalties on governments which fail to comply with EU law.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Lily Cusack; editing by Philip Blenkinsop

Polish PM rejects ‘blackmail’ on EU migrant quotas

September 3, 2017


© AFP/File | Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said the country doesn’t agree to “the forced relocation of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East”

WARSAW (AFP) – Poland’s rightwing premier said Sunday that her country would not be “blackmailed” by its “largest” EU partners into accepting thousands of asylum seekers under a quota system for spreading them throughout the bloc.”We cannot be blackmailed by the threat that part of our EU funds will be cut off as punishment, because we don’t agree to the forced relocation of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said in an excerpt of an interview with Sieci, a rightwing news magazine, published Sunday on the wPolityce news website.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said in July that Brussels was taking legal steps against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland “for failing to meet their legal obligations on relocation” under the quota program.

The three countries could be brought before the European Court of Justice and eventually fined, something Warsaw argues would be tantamount to a cut in EU funding.

“EU funds and cohesion policy are pillars of the European Union just like the free movement of goods and services. We have a right to them… Therefore, we insist that EU treaties must be adhered to and we reject the diktat of the largest states” on migrant quotas, Szydlo said.

Her remarks come as the ECJ is expected on Wednesday to dismiss a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia to the mandatory quota program, created at the height of Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis.

The wave of people fleeing the war in Syria and conflict and poverty in the Middle East and many African countries triggered Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.

But of this July, only 24,000 of the 160,000 refugees involved in the EU relocation scheme were moved from frontline states like Italy and Greece to other member countries.

Aside from garnering criticism for its rejection of migrant quotas, Szydlo’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government has come under heavy fire both at home and abroad since taking office in 2015 for a slew of reforms that critics say erode democratic standards and the rule of law.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that Poland was going “against European interests”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Poland a “serious issue”.

The EU launched legal action in July against the government over reforms that it fears will limit judicial independence.

In the interview, Szydlo also rejected claims that her government’s actions were gradually pushing Poland out of the EU, calling the allegations “the greatest of lies, a horrible manipulation” and insisting that “we want to be in the EU, we value it”.

Surveys show that nearly 90 percent of Poles support EU membership, viewing it as a major source of funding and development.

Hungary’s Viktor Orban sends EU a border fence bill

September 1, 2017

Hungary has asked the EU to foot half the bill for fences erected to keep migrants out of the bloc. The conservative government’s request comes just days before a court ruling on Hungary’s rejection of EU migrant quotas.

Hungarian army soldiers build a temporary protective fence on the border between Hungary and Serbia (picture alliance/AP Photo/Z.G.Kelemen)

Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants the European Union to refund half the cost of Hungary’s border defense measures, his government said on Thursday.

Orban’s Chief of Staff Janos Lazar told reporters Hungary’s southern border fences with Serbia and Croatia were “protecting all the citizens of Europe from the flood of illegal migrants.”

He added that it was time that the 28-member bloc helped Hungary as it did Italy, Greece and Bulgaria.

“If we talk about European solidarity, then we must also discuss the protection of borders. Solidarity must be applicable there, too,” Lazar said. “That burden must also be shared.”

The Hungarian government estimated that Brussels should pay back 400 million euros ($476 million).

Read more: Hungary PM Viktor Orban aims to militarize the school system

In 2015, Hungary built a razor-wire fence patrolled by soldiers and dogs at its southern border with Serbia in response to a wave of refugees and migrants crossing its border.

The eastern European country then reinforced the barrier with an additional fence line, built another fence on its border with Croatia and hired around 3,000 special “border hunter” police.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives a speech during a press conference in Brussels (picture-alliance/abaca/D. Aydemir)Prime Minister Orban has fiercely campaigned against migration for years

The battle over quotas

Hungary’s request comes just days before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is due to decide on a case brought by Hungary and Slovakia against the relocation of refugees across the bloc.

It’s possible that the ECJ will dismiss the case after the court’s Advocate General Yves Bot rejected Hungary and Slovakia’s arguments that the quotas were unlawful.

The two eastern European countries – supported by neighboring Poland – wanted the court to annul a 2015 EU plan to have each member state host a certain number of refugees to ease pressure on Italy and Greece, where the majority of asylum-seekers first arrive in the EU.

Orban is a staunch opponent of immigration from the Middle East and has been campaigning against migration for years. His rhetoric is well received by his right-wing party’s voters.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa passed through Hungary in en route to western Europe in 2015.

The construction of Hungary’s border fences was fiercely denounced by Brussels at the time although other EU member states later followed suit.

Read more: Dream of Europe turns deadly at Bulgaria’s border

Currently, fewer than 700 migrants are living in Hungary. Around 430 of them are kept in two closely-guarded and controversial detention camps on the Serbian border.

rs/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Merkel Has No Regrets Over Refugee Policy Despite Political Cost

August 27, 2017

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she has no regrets about her 2015 decision to open the country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees and added she will not be deterred from campaigning by angry hecklers.

In an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday, Merkel denied she had made any mistakes with her open-door policy even though the arrival of a million refugees over the last two years from Syria and Iraq opened deep rifts in her conservative party and depressed its support.

Image result for Angela Merkel, photos

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Four weeks before the Sept. 24 election, an Emnid opinion poll on Sunday showed Merkel’s conservatives would win 38 percent, or 15 points ahead of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). That is up from 32 percent in February but well below the 41.5 percent her party won in the last election in 2013.

“I’d make all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again,” Merkel said. “It was an extraordinary situation and I made my decision based on what I thought was right from a political and humanitarian standpoint.

“Those kinds of extraordinary situations happen every once in a while in a country’s history,” she added. “The head of government has to act and I did.”

Her decision to open the borders contributed to a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which pollsters say could win up to 10 percent in the September election.

Merkel, seeing a fourth term, has had to contend with loud and sustained heckling from demonstrators strongly opposed to her refugee policies so far on the campaign trail.

The volume and intensity of the protests have been especially strong in her home region in formerly communist eastern Germany. But the 63-year-chancellor said she would not be kept away from areas where animosity towards her runs high.

“We’re a democracy and everyone can freely express themselves in public the way they want,” she said. “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.”

Support for Merkel and her party has recovered somewhat after the influx of refugees slowed in 2016 to 280,000 and fell even further to about 106,000 in the first seven months of this year.

Merkel said it was unfair that Greece and Italy were left on their own carrying the full burden of the refugee crisis “simply because of their geography”. She added she would not stop pushing for the fair distribution of refugees across the European Union.

“That some countries refuse to accept any refugees is not on. That contradicts the spirit of Europe. We’ll overcome that. It will take time and patience but we will succeed.”

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum, editing by Louise Heavens)


Germany’s Angela Merkel: ‘Refugees must be distributed fairly’

August 27, 2017

Chancellor Merkel has called in an interview for EU countries to show solidarity in taking in refugees. But she said her decision to open Germany’s borders in 2015 was one she would take again in the same circumstances.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

In an interview published on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel again defended her resolution two years ago to provide refuge to those fleeing from warfare in Syria and other countries.

“I would take all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again,” she told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper, saying they had been necessary to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”

However, she admitted that EU law at the time had been inadequate for dealing with the enormous refugee influx that ensued. She criticized the so-called “Dublin Regulation” on refugees, which requires those seeking asylum to register in the first EU state they enter.

Read more: Angela Merkel from A to Z: the many faces of the chancellor

Migration flows in the Mediterranean 2017 ENGMediterranean countries bear the brunt of the migrant flows

Unfair burden for Greece and Italy

The regulation means that EU countries on the Mediterranean are forced to take in the overwhelming majority of migrants, most of whom come via the sea route.

“It is unacceptable that Greece and Italy should have to carry the burden alone only because they have the geographical location that they do and the refugees land in them,” she told the Welt am Sonntag.

Instead, refugees should be distributed among the EU member states in solidarity, she said.

Calls for redistribution of refugees in the bloc according to a quote scheme have previously met with considerable resistance, particularly from eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary.

Holidays at home?

Merkel however also called for harsher measures to be taken against asylum seekers if it was discovered that they had gone on holiday in their countries of origin, as recent reports have suggested.

“Taking holidays in the country in which you are being persecuted is not on,” Merkel said, adding that if it did happen, it could be a reason to re-examine any decision to grant asylum to those involved.

The chancellor also spoke about the issue of EU cooperation with Libya on refugees, which has come under vehement criticism from human rights groups who say migrants in the largely lawless North African country have been subjected to abuse of many kinds.

Migrants in sea off Libya Migrants often have difficulties after setting off from Libya

Merkel said that she wanted to provide the Libyan coast guard “with the necessary equipment to do its work,” which under a recent agreement means trying to prevent migrants leaving Libyan territory. She said the EU-Libya deal aimed at preventing human trafficking, which had led to many deaths.

But she said that at the same time, the EU “of course considers it to be of the greatest importance that the Libyan coast guard adheres to the rules of international law, both in dealing with refugees and migrants and with non-governmental organizations.”

If doubts were to arise about Libya’s behavior in this regard, the reports would be investigated, Merkel said.