"I am totally convinced that the path I have taken is the right one," said the Chancellor on Sunday evening on German television, underlining the fact that she is continuing to work as hard as she can for a European solution to the refugee crisis. She is against member states launching their own national actions, and wants to see "Europe sticking together and demonstrating its humanity".
On the television programme "Anne Will" Angela Merkel explained her views of European refugee policy. "I can reduce the number of refugees coming to us by addressing the root causes of the problem, the factors that cause people to leave their homes in the first place. I am endeavouring to secure the external borders and to combat illegal migration, to legalise migration and take matters out of the hands of the human traffickers." She is convinced that a European solution is in Germany’s best interests. "Germany lies at the heart of Europe, and Germany benefits from Europe. And that is why it makes sense to work for this solution," stressed Angela Merkel.
Time is needed to resolve the crisis
The Chancellor called for patience in dealing with the refugee crisis. A European solution "will take a certain amount of time". She said, she could see that people are becoming impatient. "To a certain extent I must understand this," said Angela Merkel. But what she cannot understand at all, "is people being offensive to refugees or committing criminal acts. There is absolutely no excuse for this sort of behaviour. This is where we have to draw the line very clearly, and make it plain that we have no sympathy, said the Chancellor.
She said she had found the images broadcast from Clausnitz, where asylum-seekers arriving by bus were threatened and insulted "abhorrent and dreadful". Article 1 of the German Basic Law or constitution, which stipulates that human dignity is inviolable, "applies to everyone in our country, irrespective of whether that person is a German or a visitor, a refugee or anybody else".
At the same time Angela Merkel stressed that there are "very very many people" working to help refugees, as part of their job or as volunteers. "I am still very grateful to them and I would say to them, I know it is a difficult path. It is not easy. We are talking about Germany, and we are talking about Europe. It is our reputation that is at stake, our image in the world in view of civil war and terrorism. This is a vitally important phase in our history. And that is why I would like to thank them especially, " explained Angela Merkel.
We must not leave Greece alone with the problems
With respect to a European solution, it is important to share the burden fairly across Europe. Along with the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU Presidency, and the European Commission, she is also placing her faith in achieving viable agreements with Turkey, in order to reduce the flow of refugees from Turkey to Europe. Closing borders unilaterally is not going to solve the problem, she pointed out.
She commented on the current situation in Greece, where thousands of refugees are stranded because Macedonia has closed its border with Greece. "We cannot simply abandon Greece now. That is precisely what I am afraid of. When one country decides to close a border, its neighbour is left with the problem. That is not my Europe," declared the Chancellor.
No "Plan B"
In spite of all the problems, though, the Chancellor declared herself optimistic "that we will manage to find a European solution". She has no Plan B for a national solution, she said. She also rejects any rigid ceiling on refugee numbers. Much depends on the way things develop, said Angela Merkel. "If the ceasefire in Syria holds, we will be facing an entirely different situation from the scenario we will be confronted with if Turkey has to take in not 2.5 million refugees but 3.5 million refugees because more and more people flee from Aleppo. That means we must work to get the political process in Syria moving forward, and we must work on a great many other things."
Angela Merkel explained, "There are conflicting interests in Europe, but – to put things bluntly – it is my duty and my responsibility to do all I can to help this Europe of ours find a common path forwards." She stressed, "Now we must build bridges and care for the people in need, so that they can remain close to their homes. Then we will also manage to reduce the number of refugees coming to us."