Angela Merkel, who has long faced months of accusations of being too open with migrants from allies and the AFD, is now being accused of changing her tune with refugees. German Vice Chancellor and Social Democrats (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel said Merkel has changed her policy after making the right decision last year when she allowed refugees in, as a humanitarian emergency case.
However, the latter added “Now, after Austria, Hungary and Slovenia have closed the Balkan route, she says: ‘We’re not taking in any refugees from Idomeni (a camp on the Greek border) because people could look for accommodation there.’ If I may say so, that’s a 180-degree turn”.
Noting that Germany took in more than a million migrant from Middle East and Africa, mostly those who were looking for a shelter fleeing from poverty and conflicts.
As for the recent criticism from her junior coalition partner for altering her position by refusing to take more migrants, the whole case highlights the political tightrope she has had to walk over the highly-charged issue in Europe’s largest economy.
The number of migrants however has dropped sharply, and on whether Merkel could consider the drop as a personal success, Gabriel commented that seeing it that way could be “half-truth”, since the numbers declined after the Balkan route had been closed, not forgetting to mention that the drop in numbers came after Turkey started to prevent so many boats from setting sail.
In March the European Union and Turkey struck a deal that aimed to give Turks visa-free travel to Europe in return for stemming the flow of migrants. The EU is insisting Turkey meet 72 criteria, including reining in its broad anti-terror laws, to get visa-free travel and on Friday Ankara said talks on this had reached an impasse.
Gabriel said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wanted to get visa facilitation without meeting all the conditions but added that Europe could not accept that.
He said he did not expect the EU-Turkey deal to solve the refugee crisis because once the route to Europe via Greek islands is closed, migrants will look for other routes such as via Bulgaria or via Libya and Italy.