German Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted she regrets opening Germany’s doors to more than a million refugees last year.
Following a devastating defeat in Berlin state elections today, Mrs Merkel said she accepted her share of responsibility for voters punishing her ruling Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) party for her refugee-friendly migrant policy.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, she said: “If I could, I would turn back the time by many, many years.”
The German premier admitted she could have been better prepared for the influx of migrants last year.
She added if she knew how people wanted her to change her migrant policy she would consider it.
And she admitted Germany had not been “world champions” in integrating migrants in the past, saying it would take time to integrate them.
Monday’s defeat is the second in two weeks, with the Chancellor being defeated in her own constituency in the state of Mecklenburg-Western-Pomerania.
Attacks by migrants and clashes with Germans have plagued the country over the past year as they struggle to cope with the numbers unprecedented in modern times.
Sounding particularly conciliatory, Mrs Merkel added that if the wish of the German people was for the country not to be swamped with uncontrolled and unregulated migration “then that is exactly what I am fighting for”.
Right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), made big gains during the weekend’s state elections as Germans reacted to Mrs Merkel’s policy.
The German Chancellor said her party needed to reach out to AfD supporters and she is still motivated to lead the country and her party.
She said: “Back in 1989, when the wall came down, it looked like we were on the right path, that everyone else just needed to imitate our model.
“But it turned out that it’s not that easy.
“The saying ‘we can do this’ is part of my political work. I really don’t want to repeat it anymore. Some feel provoked by this sentence but it wasn’t meant that way.
“If people decide that they do not want to take in people of a Muslim belief then the constitution, the Christian values and my personal opinion will be opposed to that.
“I myself have also relied on the Dublin agreement for a long time, that, simply speaking, removed the problem from Germany.
“That was not good. And if I could I would turn back time for many, many years to be able to better prepare myself with the entire government and all those responsible for this situation that hit us when we were rather unprepared in the late summer of 2015.
“Since then we have tried with all our might to shape, organise and regulate and much has already been achieved with this, very much.
“Still, I am aware that many areas are still lacking.”
Despite the devastating double defeat, the Chancellor said she had the “absolutely certain feeling that Germany will come out of this difficult phase better than it entered it”.
Commenting on a recent poll showing 82 percent of voters wanted a change in her migrant policy, she added: “If I knew what change in policy people wanted, I would be ready to consider it and to talk about it.”
“But the poll does not give any advice on that,” she added.
A backlash against her migrant policy has raised questions about whether Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, will stand for a fourth term next year. Given a dearth of options in her party, however, she is still the most likely candidate.
Asked whether she will run again next year, Merkel smiled and declined to comment. She said she was still motivated.
Merkel is pushing for a European solution to the migration challenge by securing the continent’s external borders, agreeing migration deals with countries like Turkey and distributing refugees across Europe.
The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 14 percent of the vote will enter its 10th of the country’s 16 regional assemblies, said it would target a double digit score in next year’s national vote after the “terrific” Berlin result.
“More and more people are convinced and recognising that we are a real alternative not just for Berlin but for Germany,” AfD co-leader Joerg Meuthen told a news conference in the capital.
Alix Culbertson and Monika Pallenberg via express.co.uk
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