"We should be proud of what we do"
During the budget debate, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that Germany can be proud of what it has achieved. Over the last few years the German government has managed the country prudently, with the result that the 2016 budget can be balanced in spite of the challenges posed by the refugee crisis. That is a sign of Germany’s economic strength, she said. The government is not going to renounce its goal of a balanced budget.
Solidarity with France
At the beginning of her speech Angela Merkel underlined Germany’s solidarity with France in its sorrow for the victims and in its fight against terrorism. Before her meeting this evening with President François Hollande in Paris, she stressed, "If greater engagement is necessary, this is not an option that we will rule out automatically." The most potent weapon against terrorists, she added "is to keep living according to our values".
Among countries in general it is important to step up cooperation among intelligence agencies and above all to cut off the flows of funds to terrorists. In Germany too the threat level is high. "We are acting on all information we receive," added Angela Merkel. The security authorities enjoy trust and have the political support they need for their work, she stated.
Finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict
After the shooting down of a Russian military jet, Angela Merkel warned against any escalation of the Syrian conflict. She called on all countries involved to engage constructively in the peace process. "It is completely clear that the only genuine solution must be a political solution. There is no other way that will bring us closer to a lasting solution."
To this end she spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Managing refugee flows
Angela Merkel called for refugee movements to be ordered and managed through Europe-wide contingents. It is a question of replacing illegality with legality and thus clamping down on gangs of human traffickers, she said. The aim must be to reduce the number of refugees arriving in Germany.
"Simply sealing off our borders will not solve the problem," she said. People are fleeing terrorism. That is why she advocates "legal contingents" for refugees that are to be agreed throughout Europe. "Europe’s image at the moment leaves a lot of scope for improvement," said the Chancellor critically.
The contingents would also ease the burden on Syria’s neighbours, including Turkey. Turkey needs support, said Angela Merkel. "It is in our own best interests to ensure that Turkey can cope with the flows of refugees." This is Europe’s shared responsibility. And that will also be the focus of the EU-Turkey summit meeting on Sunday, she said.
Thanks to helpers
In the face of the crisis, Germany is demonstrating how committed and flexible people in Germany are, said Angela Merkel. The Chancellor praised the dedication of employees and volunteers during the refugee crisis and advocated an immediate start with integration. "We can be proud of the services we offer, including integration courses, German courses and internships," said Angela Merkel.
At the same time the Chancellor stressed that to enable Germany to help those who need help it is reasonable to expect that people who are not in need of protection leave the country. This is the only way to ensure that Germany can help those who need it and manage the processes. Applications for asylum must be processed more rapidly.
The federal, state and local government authorities share responsibility for addressing the refugee crisis. The Chancellor expressed her hope that the German government will agree on the new asylum package within the next few days.
Well equipped for the future
Angela Merkel underscored the fact that this is the third national budget with no new borrowing. "This is a reflection of our good management, which allows us to deal with even unforeseen tasks."
Germany, she said, is well equipped for the future. The reform of the nursing care system, the energy shift, the digital agenda and high levels of investment in education and research mean that the country is in a very good position.
Looking forward to the UN Climate Change Conference next week in Paris, Angela Merkel said that Germany will continue to play an active part at international level. Climate change, terrorism and global migration movements are examples of how German action is part of global action. Angela Merkel declared, "We will manage, but it will be a lot of hard work."