Merkel admits her government lost public trust over migration feud

Published 20.07.2018 20:05

German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded during her annual summer press conference on Friday that the recent government crisis over migration policy cost her coalition public trust that will have to be won back.

"Yes, I believe that is the case," Merkel said in response to a question as to whether the spat between her conservative CDU and its hardline CSU sister party over whether to turn back migrants at the border had reduced her standing in the eyes of the public, as reported by dpa.

Merkel said she believed the debate over migration policy was an important one to have, but that the tone of the discussion "was often very harsh, and I attach a very, very great importance to the language."

The weeks-long row had threatened to topple her "grand coalition" government after just 100 days in power. German Interior Minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer's push to start turning away migrants put him on a collision course with the chancellor, who insisted on avoiding unilateral decisions in favor of solutions in accordance with other EU member states.

Merkel made an 11th-hour deal with Seehofer to hold asylum seekers arriving at the country's southern border with Austria in transit centers while their status is checked. The deal pulled the coalition back from the brink of collapse after threats by Seehofer to resign and speculation about the end of the long-standing CDU-CSU conservative alliance. The third partner in Merkel's coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), voiced humanitarian concerns over the creation of closed centers for migrants, further fueling speculation about the government's collapse.

A number of opinion polls conducted in the aftermath of the dispute showed a dip in public support for the government. Two out of every five Germans want Chancellor Angela Merkel to step down in light of an ongoing dispute within her government over how to handle asylum seekers at the country's borders, a poll released Friday showed. Furthermore, 43 percent of respondents to a YouGov survey said that Merkel should make way for a successor, while roughly the same percentage (42 percent) said she should remain in office. Fifteen percent declined to respond to the question.Tensions on the question of migration could flare again if Merkel fails to strike bilateral deals with other EU countries that she hopes will see German authorities returning asylum seekers to the members states they first registered in. Merkel has been fighting a battle at home and abroad against critics who accuse her of endangering European security with her welcoming approach to migrants. Her conservative coalition is under pressure from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The party received a surge in support since 2015 when well over 1 million people entered Europe, mostly fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and populist leaders in southern and eastern Europe have rejected her calls for a wholesale reform of Europe's migration system.

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