German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted responsibility for her Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) party's defeat in the Berlin state elections and acknowledged her mistakes in handling the refugee crisis.
In a speech on Monday (19 September), Merkel said that she was fighting to ensure that there would not be a repeat of last year's chaos at its borders, even as she defended her open door refugee policy which allowed a million migrants to reach Germany. It was a humanitarian gesture as Europe faced desperate migrants, many of who fled the war in Syria.
She said, "If I could, I would turn back time many, many years to better prepare myself, the federal government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation we were rather unprepared for in the late summer of 2015." However, she did not disown the decision to keep the borders open for thousands of refugees stranded at the Keleti train station in Budapestin September 2015.
In Sunday's elections, the two main parties in Germany – Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) – saw the worst results in history. The CDU received only 17.6% of the vote and SPD managed to get just about 22%, even as right-wing populist party Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) saw impressive gains with 14%. The SPD said it would hold talks with all parties to form a coalition except the AfD. According to BBC, the party is expected to drop CDU as a coalition partner to favor the left-wing Die Linke and the Greens.
George Pazderski, AfD's Berlin leader, called his party "the biggest democratic project of the last few decades" as they made gains and entered the 10th state parliament in a row.
Meanwhile, Merkel admitted that her open door refugee policy with the slogan "Wir schaffen das" (We will manage it) played a part in the outcome of the elections. She has now distanced herself from the slogan saying that it was "a sort of simplified motto". She added that for a long time, she depended on the Dublin Resolution "which, to put it simply, had taken the problem off Germany's hands, and that was not good". The 62-year-old vowed to work harder to explain her stance on migrants.
She bemoaned that the European Union was failing to accept the refugee crisis as a "global and a moral challenge".
"What we are seeing in Europe is a realisation that we are no longer leading the field when it comes to globalisation, we are not setting the pace. In 1990, when the wall fell, the cold war came to an end and freedom blossomed everywhere; it looked like we were on an irreversible road to victory, and that it was just up to the rest of the world to join our model. Freedom had won. It now turns out things aren't that simple, she said.