Chancellor Angela Merkel rejects refugee limit for Germany in TV interview
The German chancellor has rejected calls from her sister party to limit the number of refugees entering Germany. In a wide-ranging interview she defended the G20 summit in Hamburg and spending on infrastructure.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to place an upper limit on refugees that the country accepts, speaking in an annual interview broadcast on Sunday.
Distancing herself from the position of her conservative Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), Merkel, who leads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said placing a limit on refugees was not the way forward.
"As far as an upper limit is concerned, my position is clear: I will not accept it," she said, saying that numbers could be reduced by regulation and taking action to prevent the situations that cause people to flee one country for another.
That position places her in conflict with CSU leader Horst Seehofer who threatened not to enter into coalition without an annual upper limit for refugee numbers.
In the wide ranging interview, Merkel said she hoped to work with NATO to resolve a widening gulf between Turkey and Germany.
Turkey NATO base access
Last week, Turkey refused to give German lawmakers access to Bundeswehr troops serving on AWACS surveillance planes at the NATO base in Konya which had been scheduled for Monday. Turkey asked for a delay, citing the tense state of German-Turkish bilateral relations.
Merkel refused to link the issue of extradition of Turkish asylum seekers with access to Konya in talks with Ankara. She said the two issues were completely unrelated. The question of asylum and the right to visit German troops have "nothing, but nothing to do with each other," Merkel said.
"Before we draw conclusions, we should first wait for talks and discuss these things with NATO's help," Merkel said.
"This whole issue is unfortunate, very unfortunate," Merkel said on Sunday.
Germany has already moved troops away from Incirlik airbase to Jordan after Turkey refused access to German parliamentarians and focus has now shifted to a NATO air surveillance mission at Konya.
NATO's Secretary General urged the Turkish and German foreign ministers on Friday to resolve their differences over visits to Turkish air bases, part of a wider row between the two allies.
Defends G20 venue choice
On domestic matters Merkel defended her decision to host the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, known for being a hotbed of left-wing extremism. Riots broke out in the city, with scores of police officers injured and widespread political fallout.
Merkel distanced herself from local politicians within her party who had called for Hamburg's Mayor Olaf Scholz, a senior SPD member, to step down because of the riots.
Merkel said that while the riots were absolutely unacceptable but it was still right to have invited G20 leaders to Hamburg. "For this, I have the same responsibility as Olaf Scholz does - and I'm not dodging," she added.
"Things happened that were unacceptable. I don't shirk my responsibility," Merkel told ARD public television.
Germany can't spend its money
On investment, Merkel rejected criticism from her Social Democrat challenger Martin Schulz in September's elections that she was neglecting the country's infrastructure. She pointed to already increased investment levels and capacity bottlenecks in some parts of the economy.
"We currently cannot spend the money that we have," Merkel argued, pointing to planning and capacity bottlenecks in the construction industry as well as at the level of regional authorities.
Germany has already earmarked billions of euros for schools, nurseries, hospitals and housing, but local authorities have so far spent only a fraction of that windfall due to planning bottlenecks.
Merkel said Germany had to increase investment in high-speed internet broadband connections.
"We say, for example, that we have to use at least one third of the additional tax revenues for investment. It can also be more," she said. "But we also must be able to get everything built on the ground."
Germany has been criticized internationally for a lack of domestic spending. Trading partners called on the government to invest more as a way of reducing its massive trade surplus, something US President Donald Trump has railed against.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview published Thursday that Germany had to move on investment.
The Economist magazine labeled trade surpluses "the German problem" on its latest cover, accusing Germany of saving too much and spending too little.
Merkel to retain leadership
On leadership, Merkel said she planned to lead the country for at least the next four years.
"No one can say what life will bring, but I certainly intend to continue for four years," Merkel said in response to a question concerning voters' expectations of her being able to fulfill her vision for Germany.
Merkel will likely be reelected in September elections opinion polls show.