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.
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.”
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 favour 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 centres 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 , voiced humanitarian concerns over the creation of closed centres for migrants, further fuelling 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.
A survey released by public broadcaster ARD indicated that 78 per cent of Germans were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the government’s work – a rise of 15 percentage points as compared to the previous month.
Merkel said Friday that though she would have preferred the matter be to handled differently, the government had ultimately found a solution and that she believed that the government had “proven itself to be capable of acting.”
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.
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