Merkel: German govt is solid despite fight over migration

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By Associated Press

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged Friday that a bitter fight over migrant policy hurt Germans’ confidence in her government, but said she never thought of quitting and insisted that her administration is doing solid work.

Merkel’s fourth-term government took office in March after a six-month effort to put together a new governing coalition. So far, it has been remarkable chiefly for the spat within Merkel’s own two-party conservative bloc that threatened to bring down the administration earlier this month.

Leaders eventually agreed to turn back migrants who have already sought asylum in another European nation under yet-to-be-reached bilateral deals.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had previously threatened to turn back migrants unilaterally at Germany’s border in defiance of Merkel, who insisted that Berlin must not take action that would further undermine the unity of the European Union.

Merkel said at her annual summer news conference that the issue raises a “fundamental question” that was worth arguing over, even though migration to Germany is far lower now than at the height of the influx of refugees and migrants in 2015 and 2016.

She acknowledged that “the tone (of the debate) was often very harsh,” adding that politicians should be more cautious in their choice of words.

“I think that some have already tried to take that to heart,” she said.

Although she didn’t elaborate, Bavarian governor Markus Soeder — a leading member of Seehofer’s party — has recently backed off talk of the need to end “asylum tourism.”

Merkel emphasized her government’s actions in other policy areas, such as efforts to help the long-term unemployed, secure pensions and boost the nursing profession.

“We have achieved a great deal more than has perhaps been perceived externally, but we have ourselves to blame for that,” she said. “So we will see that we conduct conflicts — and I say again that there will be more — in such a way that the results do not fade into the background.”

Asked whether she considered resigning during the recent crisis, Merkel replied: “No, no, no, no.”

As for her future, the 64-year-old who has led Germany for 12 ½ years, reiterated that she has told voters she is prepared to serve out this parliamentary term, which ends in 2021.

She brushed aside a question as to whether she would rule out running for a fifth term, which few people expect her to seek.

“There is a right time for everything,” Merkel said.