Why do I feel intimidated by strangers?
Chairman Welty: Ladies and gentlemen, a warm welcome to the Federal Press Conference. We warmly welcome Chancellor Angela Merkel. Welcome! The word is yours.
BK’in Merkel: Ms. Welty, I would like to thank you for inviting me to the federal press conference and for understanding that we had to postpone this press conference because of the Greece vote on July 17th. Today is August 31st, and even meteorologically one can still speak of summer. So it's just about time.
I would like to pause briefly on the subject of Greece and say that we now have a third program. We have paid out the first tranche of this program. There will be new elections in Greece and I expect Greece to honor its commitments.
Today we will certainly be able to talk about all the issues that concern us: Ukraine, climate protection, the energy transition, federal and state finances, etc. I could mention many other topics. But at the beginning I would like to say a few words on my part in more detail on just one subject, namely the many people from all over the world who seek refuge with us in Germany.
Ladies and gentlemen, what is happening in Europe at the moment is not a natural disaster, but there are many catastrophic situations. An infinite number of tragedies are taking place and there are also incredible atrocities, such as a few days ago in Austria when over 70 people were found dead in a truck, wrecked by unscrupulous smugglers. These are atrocities that cannot be grasped at all and where you simply have to say: These are images that are beyond our imagination. All of this happens while we are living here in very orderly conditions.
In a moment we will also talk about initial reception facilities, processing times, returns, fair distribution in Europe, safe countries of origin, combating the causes of flight. We have to. But we will have to talk beforehand about what should actually guide us and what also moves me when we talk about the fact that up to 800,000 people will come to us this year. - So the latest forecasts.
Most of us do not know the state of complete exhaustion on the run, combined with fear for our own life or the life of our children or our partners, luckily not. People who set out from Eritrea, Syria or Northern Iraq, for example, often have to overcome situations or endure fears that probably simply caused us to collapse. Therefore, when dealing with people who come to us now, we must apply some clear principles. These principles come from no more and no less than our Basic Law, our constitution.
First. The basic right of politically persecuted people to asylum applies. We can be proud of the humanity of our Basic Law. In this article it is particularly evident. We also grant protection to all those who flee to us from wars. They too are entitled to this protection.
The second principle is the human dignity of everyone. This is a principle that Article 1 of the Basic Law gives us. Regardless of whether he is a citizen or not, no matter where and why he comes to us and with what prospect of being recognized as an asylum seeker at the end of a procedure - we respect the human dignity of each individual and we turn with all the severity of ours Rule of law against those who abuse other people, who attack other people, who set fire to their accommodation or who want to use violence. We turn against those who call for demonstrations with their hate chants. There is no tolerance for those who question the dignity of other people. As I said in my New Year's address at the beginning of this year, I also say today to those who, for whatever reason, take part in such demonstrations: Do not follow those who call for such demonstrations! Too often there are prejudices, too often there is coldness, even hatred in their hearts. Keep your distance!
But I also say: Despite all this, our country is still a good country. It's in good shape. The often invoked civil society is a reality with us, and it makes me proud and grateful to see how countless people in Germany react to the arrival of the refugees. The number of those who are there for refugees today, the number of helpers, the number of those who accompany strangers through the cities and offices, even take them in, exceeds the number of agitators and xenophobes many times over, and it is still growing , also - I would like to expressly mention this here - thanks to many wonderful reports about it from you, the media, especially in the last few days. For once I am taking the liberty of encouraging them to continue doing exactly that; because in doing so you give the many good citizens the opportunity to watch their own kind in the reports, in doing so you show role models and examples, and you give courage to others.
The overwhelming majority of our people are open to the world. Our economy is strong, our job market is robust and even receptive. Let us think of the area of skilled workers. If so many people take so much on themselves to fulfill their dream of a life in Germany, then that really doesn't give us the worst testimony. Our freedom, our rule of law, our economic strength, the order of how we live together - this is what people dream of who have come to know persecution, war and arbitrariness in their lives. The world sees Germany as a land of hope and opportunity, and it really wasn't always that way.
Now the question arises: what do we have to do in such a situation, in which we are of course faced with a huge challenge? I want to say a few things about that.
In June, at the meeting of the Prime Ministers with the Federal Government and the municipal umbrella organizations, we jointly stated: We are facing a major national task; it concerns everyone. And this will be a central challenge, not just for days or months, but, as far as one can predict, for a longer period of time. It is therefore important that we say: German thoroughness is great, but German flexibility is needed now. There are a multitude of examples that we have shown that we can.
I want to remind you of the bank bailout. During the international financial crisis, we - the federal and state governments together - enforced the necessary laws within a few days.
I want to remind you of the nuclear phase-out, when we made a turnaround in the truest sense of the word in the course of the energy transition.
I want to remind you of the natural disasters that we - federal, state and local governments - have always faced with determination and unity.
If, perhaps, in the 25th year of German unification, I may still remember a very nice example: We didn't solve German unity with normal work either, but we went many new paths, whether it was the traffic route acceleration laws or the delegation of many voluntary workers Helpers in the new federal states.
We are now faced with such a challenge again. The examples of the past show us: Whenever it matters, we - the federal government, states and municipalities - are able to do the right thing and do what is necessary. But we need to speed things up now. We have to temporarily override what prevents us from doing the right thing and therefore show a bit of courage in doing so. So that's what we have to do in the country.
We have now set up the structures in which, I believe, we can implement the national efforts and solve the national task. There is permanent coordination between the federal government and the federal states, based at the Federal Ministry of the Interior. We will hold a meeting of the heads of the state chancelleries with the Federal Minister of the Interior and the head of the Chancellery on September 9th. We will decide on a comprehensive package on September 24 - this is what we are working towards in any case - and then, I hope, will also implement it very quickly in parliament, with which we will make the necessary regulations. We will then also hold meetings with the social groups in order to bundle the necessary efforts again.
Why is? - On the one hand, it is about speeding up the process. We need more initial reception facilities, among other things, because quick decisions can only be made through cooperation between the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the initial reception facilities. It is about saying “Who has a good chance to stay?” And it is also about saying “Who has almost no chance of staying with us?”. These applications have to be decided quickly, and then the repatriations to the home countries - this also includes the countries of the Western Balkans - must be carried out quickly. This has to happen from the initial reception center.
We are in a very intensive cooperation with the federal states; because there are of course many practical problems to be considered with the accommodation and especially with the creation of the initial reception facilities. There is now a very well-functioning cooperation with the BImA. The provision of federal properties is unbureaucratic. But of course we also have to look: How can we create even more initial reception facilities? How can the federal and state governments work together on this?
A number of practical questions then arise here, such as fire protection requirements and immission control laws, which clash with building laws. We are currently collecting all the comments from the municipalities and the federal states. The whole thing will then have to lead to a legislative initiative in which we temporarily suspend standards that prevent us from doing what is necessary and make deviations possible so that we can react quickly.
Second, of course, there is a fair distribution of costs. We will list: who does what? What are the municipalities doing? What are the countries doing? What is the federal government doing? - Then the federal government will not oppose a fair distribution of costs. On the contrary: we also realize that we will do more than we have done so far.
Thirdly, we need integration efforts if the applications are processed more quickly, also for those who have a high perspective of staying here, especially refugees from Syria or from other regions of civil war. Then it is a matter of finding teachers who can give German lessons to teach the children. We have more than 400 new classes in cities like Berlin or Munich alone. As you can imagine, you cannot do this by working alone with the teachers who are currently on duty. We'll have to take courses quickly when it comes to knowledge of German and many other things. You can't do that with the normal German procedure. This also applies to the care of minors if you just think about the fact that there are 4,000 in Munich and that an educator training takes years. We have to find ways and means to find interim solutions. All of this needs to be discussed.
Then, of course, it comes down to long-term housing and work prospects. The Federal Employment Agency should also be located in every initial reception center - this would ideally make sense. One would have to take up the qualifications. We are working towards these things.
I say quite simply: Germany is a strong country. The motive with which we approach these things must be: We have achieved so much - we can do it! We can do it, and where something stands in our way, it has to be overcome, it has to be worked on. The federal government will do everything in its power - together with the states, together with the municipalities - to achieve just that.
Then there is the European dimension, and here I believe that we can say that Europe as a whole must move. States must share responsibility for refugees seeking asylum. Universal civil rights have so far been closely linked to Europe and its history. That is one of the founding impulses of the European Union. If Europe fails on the refugee issue, this close link with universal civil rights will break. It will be destroyed, and it will not be the Europe that we imagine and not the Europe that, as a founding myth, we must continue to develop today.
What follows operationally in Europe is that Germany and France have a very high degree of agreement on the next steps and that we are of course now consulting other countries. There is also no point in publicly insulting each other, but you just have to say: The current situation is unsatisfactory. The interior ministers will meet on September 14th. The heads of government are always ready when necessary. It's about safe countries of origin. It's about hot spots that are being built in Italy and Greece. It is about a fair distribution of burdens, that is, quotas within Europe, which of course not only contain the size of the population, but also economic strength, but a bit of fairness.
There is a third point that we need to be aware of and that is addressing the causes of flight. This shows the importance of foreign policy and the importance of international cooperation. We are now experiencing that the Syria conflict is not taking place far from us, but that a situation has arisen in which all of Syria's neighboring countries are overwhelmed, whether it is Lebanon, whether it is Jordan or whether it is Turkey. As this issue reaches us now, it should encourage us to put even more emphasis on giving diplomatic efforts a chance to resolve this conflict. I know what a thick board it is that we have to drill, but it is essential.
We must continue to work on the issue of Afghanistan. The Federal Foreign Minister is currently there. Talks with the Taliban must continue.
In November we will have a summit between the European heads of state and government and the African countries in Malta in order to discuss what it means for the African continent when the best young people leave this continent because they do not have one for themselves Hope to see.
I also feel encouraged that we launched the Western Balkans Conference last year; Because the prospects in the Western Balkans must also be improved if we not only want to defend themselves, but really want to give these countries a perspective.
I wanted to tell you that at the beginning. Now I am available for all your questions, regardless of the subject area they come from.
Chairman Welty: Thank you very much, Chancellor. At your side, as always, is government spokesman Steffen Seibert.
Since there is great interest and I already have a lot of reports on the slip, I have a request for one question per request to speak or one additional question. A brief introduction is always nice. - It starts with the colleague.
Question: Ms. Chancellor, you were insulted in the worst by a right-wing group in Saxony. Do you give up people of this right-wing attitude or are you still trying to reach them politically, and why is this problem so great, especially in East Germany?
BK'in Merkel: It is part of being insulted as a politician. That doesn't bother me any further now. What troubles me is that we have such hatred and such mood in our country. My answer to that is very clear: There must be a very clear demarcation here. There can be no excuse here. Of course we mention our arguments, but the point here is that one - I would say - does not show a trace of understanding. No biographical experience, no historical experience, nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies such an approach.
Whether the whole thing is more pronounced or less pronounced in the East - you have had various situations in the history of the Federal Republic - I do not want to judge now. I don't want to turn it into an East-West conflict. I just want to say: Where this occurs, I certainly do not allow myself to go into explanatory models. Of course, everyone is human, but with a view to our Basic Law, we also have an obligation to enforce what we want. Therefore there can be no tolerance and certainly no explanation at this point.
Question: Chancellor, how sensible do you think the political debate that is taking place now, that politicians from the West point the finger at the East and vice versa? Does that get us any further?
BK'in Merkel: I already said: Of course, that will not help us at all. We have to take things as they are.We have - you just have to be realistic - both in Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example, where right-wing extremist ideas have apparently become socially acceptable. One must act against this with complete clarity. You also have to - I think that is also a task - to encourage the people who oppose it. This can be particularly important in certain regions. Incidentally, I want to say that without relativizing right-wing extremism in any way, there are very tough left-wing extremist processes that are not non-violent either.
But now back to right-wing extremism: Above all, be careful that people in certain regions are not intimidated! That is why it is right to oppose this, to allow events to take place in such places, to support mayors, etc. This now applies not only to Heidenau, but also to many other regions. But let's be honest: Of course there were and still are movements and ideas in the old federal states that are not good. I do not advise us to turn it into an east-west discussion. Because that's where the starting point lies. It doesn't matter at all whether there was anything in the east. We are one country, we have been one country for 25 years, and that is not proper, it has nothing to do with our constitution. We have entered the scope of the Basic Law, no more and no less, and now we have to enforce that.
Additional question: I can ask a short question.
You can see in Saxony that such racist excesses are particularly strong where the NPD is also strong. In retrospect, do you regret today that the Federal Council has gone it alone in the NPD ban proceedings?
BK'in Merkel: I don't regret that. The question of whether a party ban would, so to speak, make these ideas disappear can be discussed widely. But now the Federal Council has submitted this NPD ban application. This will be heard before the Federal Constitutional Court. In this respect we will then see the result.
Question: At the weekend, the Federal President spoke out in favor of a redefinition of the image of nations in Germany. He spoke of a community of different people. One must get away from an image of a nation, predominantly Christian, predominantly fair-skinned and very homogeneous. Do you also see the need to redefine the image of nations, and if so, what does it look like?
BK'in Merkel: I think our country has changed again and again in its history as long as the Federal Republic of Germany has existed. At the beginning we integrated millions of displaced persons or the displaced persons themselves made a major contribution to this. For a long time we made the mistake of referring to guest workers as guest workers, and fortunately for some time we have come to see that it is our fellow citizens, regardless of their origin. The fact that they are living with us in the third or fourth generation has already changed our country. That led to the discussion as to whether Islam belongs to Germany or not, in which I made myself clear and said that it now naturally belongs to Germany. This tendency that we have differences will now intensify again.
Incidentally, not only has the view of the people who live in our country and who make up our nation changed, but also the ways of life have changed throughout the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. That means, if you will: the nation or society, the country is constantly changing, and time and again it is a confirmation of our constitution, our way of living together, our economic model of the social market economy. So what the founding impulses of this country were proving itself time and again under new conditions, and that, I think, is actually what is encouraging about the history of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Question: Ms. Merkel, over the past few weeks and months you have been trying to convince your party of an immigration law. At least that was how it could be heard and read. Would you say that, in view of the current refugee issue, this cannot be expected of your party or Germany at the moment, because perhaps a bit of honesty should also be part of the debate on both sides, and what is your basic position on this law? What must it say, when is the right time, and when will you dare to step out of cover on this issue?
BK'in Merkel: If you remember: In view of the anniversary celebrations of the CDU, I mentioned that Germany is a country of immigration. We are currently experiencing immigration in a very specific form, namely in this case by asylum seekers, by civil war refugees. Many of them will stay with us for a very long time, according to human judgment. We have always said - that is also the general discussion -: I need an immigration law in order to properly serve Germany's interests, namely the need for workers and skilled workers, and to find the right answers. We have done a lot legally and legally, some of which is not even known because we do not call the whole thing “Immigration Act”, but “Residence Act”. Among them are many things that the OECD says we are among the most progressive countries there are.
In view of the current development, I would advise first of all to see how many jobs we still have to fill if we overlook how the further refugee and asylum movements will develop. At the moment this is in a state of great upheaval, because a lot of people come to us, of whom we do not yet know the qualifications, of whom we do not know whether they correspond to what we need in terms of skilled workers, whether they are not correspond to whether it corresponds to the apprenticeship offer that we have. Then you can speak very soberly about the subject again. At the moment it does not seem to be the most urgent matter because we are currently getting an immigration due to the convictions of our Basic Law, which I cannot yet foresee - I am not a clairvoyant either - what effect this will make. It will certainly change a lot, because a lot of young people also come to us, a lot of people who certainly like to learn a profession. We have to organize all of this now.
Supplementary question: Allow me to ask you a supplementary question in this context. You say an immigration law is not the most urgent at the moment. So I ask myself the question: The subject will occupy us for months. Is it actually possible at this stage to conduct an election campaign with a view to 2017 that has been there before, or think of some kind of brand new election campaign: all in a grand coalition and no one wants to be tough on the other; because it could be misunderstood by some people?
BK'in Merkel: Believe it or not: At the moment I am not thinking about election campaigns at all, only about the question of how we can reasonably solve the problems I have named and what our image of ourselves is , can be fair, namely at the federal, state and local levels together. That is definitely more important than any election campaign. So we don't need to worry about it now. We have to do the right thing, and I believe everyone will see that if perhaps 800,000 people come to us this year and we assume a recognition rate of 50 percent, then there will be 400,000 people, most of them young. Many, especially the Syrian civil war refugees, will have their families reunited. If you think about it now: If I had told you a year ago that we are now talking about an immigration of 400,000, you would have said: It doesn't have to be that much.
In this respect: let's do it well for now. Then one will surely have to think about whether the people in the Western Balkans, from countries that are also largely negotiating accession with the European Union, can be given prospects if there are well-trained specialists. But our legal situation already makes all of this possible today, and this is how the topic will be approached. There is nothing to be covered by it, but, as I said, everything speaks for the fact that we are a country that people like to immigrate to, for whatever reasons.
We must ensure that we now first of all live up to our humanitarian responsibility and grant those who have a right to humanitarian protection this right and then integrate them well, and also make it clear to those who do not have that they do have no prospect of remaining in Germany. This must then also be implemented in the form of returns to their home countries, in the form of entry bans, which must then also be in place. That too is part of the truth.
Question: Chancellor, what do you expect from Turkey in solving the refugee problems?
BK'in Merkel: First, Turkey has done a lot in recent years to solve the problem of refugees from Syria and is still doing it today. There are almost two million refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border and a great many who are still in Turkey. Much of what we are experiencing today, the many who come to Greece from Turkey, of course shows that Turkey has in a certain way reached the limit of what it can cope with on its own. That is why we will hold talks with Turkey on how we can help if necessary, how we can act together. Because the situation as it is now, that one of them lets the refugees through, that the next one in Greece lets them through, that the Western Balkans are then crossed, then someone builds a fence and the fence may also be overcome, is not the legal situation nor is it a satisfactory situation. That is why we will talk to Turkey in a very trusting and also very friendly and friendly manner about how we can do that. Otherwise, I only have to express my greatest respect for what Turkey has achieved in recent years.
Question: The states of the Western Balkans, especially Macedonia, are overwhelmed by the flow of refugees. What measures can Germany help with?
BK'in Merkel: I think it would be a good help for Germany if we do what we - Germany and France - have proposed in Europe and what the interior ministers have already discussed, but what must now be implemented. Germany and France have said: Registration centers in Greece by the end of the year at the latest, which of course can then be operated in Europe - Greece cannot do that on its own - then in these registration centers an assessment of whether someone has a right to asylum, so to speak could or whether there is a recognizable prospect of not staying - we will also have to talk to the African countries about which countries are in civil war and which are not - and then a fair distribution within the European Union. Then Macedonia and Serbia will be out of this difficult situation. What is happening there now is of course a bit far from being fair. We have an asylum system within the European Union. That doesn't work, and Macedonia and Serbia are the ones to suffer. That must be clearly distinguished from what I am saying about the citizens of Macedonia and Serbia. They have negligibly low recognition rates, and from my point of view they are safe countries of origin, especially since they are all aspiring to membership in the European Union.
Question: Chancellor, I have a question about nuclear weapons in Germany. From autumn 2015, the modernization of nuclear weapons in Büchel has also been budgeted in the US federal budget. Does the Federal Government support nuclear retrofitting here in the Federal Republic and is this in contradiction to its previous position?
BK'in Merkel: We will talk to the United States about it. Perhaps the Department of Defense has already started it; I do not know that. I will inquire again and then we will give you the information in due course.
Additional question: Can I ask another question? At the NATO summit in 2012 you apparently changed your stance, which was even clearer at the time in the 2009 coalition agreement, namely the demand for these weapons to be withdrawn. Do you fear a change in the relationship with Russia if these more modern B61-12 weapons are now stationed in Germany?
BK'in Merkel: My position in the coalition agreement in 2009, when we had the coalition with the FDP, has always been like this, namely that we have to be careful about the consequences. If nuclear weapons are then stationed elsewhere and there are no longer any in Germany, one has to ask oneself: Is it actually better for balance and security? All of this has to be considered in connection with these questions. In this respect, it belongs in a larger context.
As you know, our policy is not to provoke Russia. But of course, if you look at Russia's armaments policy and modernization policy, it is also not the case that nothing is happening there. That means there is also no reason not to do anything. But now I'm not talking about a specific type of weapon. All I am saying is that everything we did at the NATO summit in Wales, for example, which also concerns training for the Central and Eastern European countries, is also due to the fact that what we have been aiming for and what I am continuing to do aim, namely a constructive relationship between NATO and Russia, is currently unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, I have always spoken out in favor of preserving the NATO-Russia files, and I will continue to do so, also with a view to the Warsaw NATO summit.
Question: Madam Chancellor, back to the refugee crisis: You said that there would also be additional financial burdens on the federal government. Can you somehow put a figure on the amount? Would you be prepared to give up the goal of a balanced budget in the face of this great challenge?
BK'in Merkel: In view of the very good fiscal developments, at least this year, I do not think that this question of a balanced budget is currently up for debate. Incidentally, these tax developments are not only good for the federal government - they are often written about - but proportionally they are of course also better for the federal states and municipalities; that is good news.
Nevertheless, at the moment I can only say that the federal government will do more, that we will take a very close look at who has to do what, and that we will do our fair share of this as part of a national effort. The details will be discussed between the federal and state governments by September 24th, and then we will inform you about them as well.
Question: Ms. Chancellor, many of us are relatively fresh from our vacation - you can still see that - and have in mind that Germany's image has been damaged in connection with the Greek crisis. I would like to know: do you mind or - as you would say - does it concern you?
Regardless of this: is there anything to learn from it? Is there a concrete plan for how you want to turn this image again?
BK'in Merkel: May I just ask something? Where do you think the image has been damaged?
Addition: In Italy. If you not only read the published opinion, but also speak to normal Italians, you are again talking about the Germans exercising their power in a way that allows the word tank again.
BK'in Merkel: If you looked at the discussion at the European Council, it was by no means the case that Germany was isolated there; The Finance Minister can report that, I can report that. At this point, whenever I am confronted with it, I would say that Germany has made a very large contribution to ensuring that Europe has also responded to the Greek challenge as one. There were countries that might have helped on simpler terms, but there were also countries that were overall very, very critical of whether one should continue to help. One of the results that we have achieved is that, as on so many other issues, Europe has acted in unison, and that has a lot to do with Franco-German cooperation. That's why, to be honest, I am very at peace with myself, and if I am at peace with myself, then I can always explain it well. Then you will see: You also have to live with the fact that others see something critically. We sometimes see something critical in other countries and find that quite normal. In this respect, we can also endure that others see us critically at one point or another.
Otherwise - I think so when we are talking about the next big problem, namely the refugees - there is a high degree of agreement that the burden on Italy should be relieved. One cannot say: All refugees who arrive there must be kept by Italy just because they are now crossing the Mediterranean. The Dublin Agreement no longer works as it used to be because situations have changed. So it will be important that each of us stand up for Europe and for commonality, and then we will make progress.
Question: Madam Chancellor, I have one more question about refugees and also about Europe. The Slovak Prime Minister has announced a special meeting of the Visegrád states for Sunday. Do you actually fear a split in East and West because of this heated debate about the allocation of refugees?
Does what you said earlier apply to East Germany, namely your lack of understanding or non-understanding of inhumane attitudes, actually also in relation to Eastern Europe, where some politicians either only want to accept Christians, not blacks or only Catholics as refugees?
BK'in Merkel: I think that a Visegrád meeting will take place is okay. There are also meetings between Germany and France, between Germany and Italy and the like. I have nothing wrong with that.
I believe that our system of values in Europe is based on the dignity of every individual. It worries me when you start to say: “We don't want Muslims, we are a Christian country.” Maybe tomorrow someone will say: “Christianity is also no longer so important, we are without any religion.” That cannot be right. I have just as little understanding for that as for statements that are made in my own country, and that is what we have to talk about in Europe.
Incidentally, it is the core of European action that wherever we have a problem, we always try to solve this problem together and fairly, not overload anyone and, of course, assess differently, that many countries from Central and Eastern Europe of course still have a great deal have a lower standard of living and that one can (not) simply look at the population size; that's perfectly clear. But if someone says "I am not participating in the whole thing, that is not my topic", then from my point of view it cannot and must not be. That is why I will in any case do all I can to ensure that Europe does not fail on this issue, but that Europe is the Europe of all of us. You also have to agree on common values.
Additional question: Are you afraid of an East-West divide or not?
BK'in Merkel: I don't approach the matter with fear anyway. I see that there are certain countries that have certain opinions. Now is the task - this may take a while; We do that more often in Europe - to get the most common course possible out of it. Anything else would not do us any good; because everyone has a challenge to overcome at one point or another, and so far we have done well with the fact that we have always solved the various challenges together. This is part of it and, incidentally, will also have a major impact on how Europe is viewed in the world. That doesn't have to guide us. We must be guided by our values. You just have to know what you're doing.
Question: Chancellor, I have a question about Ukraine. Mr Poroshenko recently announced that he no longer takes into account the centralization of Ukraine and the status of the Donbas as an independent republic or region of Ukraine. That will no longer be the question either. Do you intend to influence Mr Poroshenko so that he also takes this part of the Minsk Agreement into account, or have you already done so?
BK'in Merkel: I met the French President and Petro Poroshenko last week. You have certainly followed the press conference. In the, the Ukrainian President committed himself to the Minsk meetings on Ukraine's Independence Day. We then spoke in great detail on a case-by-case basis about how we can overcome the hurdles that are now opening up in the political process. There was also a phone call between the French President and the Russian President and myself at the weekend. We also discussed these issues there.
We have agreed that we will soon speak to each other again in the form of the Normandy telephone call, that the work in the trilateral contact groups together with the representatives of what they call themselves, the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk - I would say: with the separatists - must take place and that we now have the issue of local elections in particular before us. The point here is that we manage to shape the electoral law, which is also being worked on by the Ukrainian Rada, in such a way that it is also recognized by the separatists. The Minsk agreements describe that the elections must take place according to Ukrainian law and according to the principles of ODIR, i.e. the OSCE organization. So far, there has been no consensus that the separatist representatives have accepted an ODIR representative to join the political working group of the trilateral contact group.
So we are working in detail to advance this process. Everything is happening on the basis of the Minsk agreements and I have not heard the Ukrainian President say that he will not continue to join this process. On the contrary: the talks were very constructive.
Consultations are taking place again in Ukraine today. We are still talking about the question: Is the constitutional discussion properly weighted? We advocated this, and it was also reported that the Rada - and it did so - anchored the special status of Donetsk and Lugansk in the draft constitution. There is now a dispute between Russia and Ukraine about whether this is in the right place in the right form. Legal advice was given here in the German Foreign Ministry with the relevant experts, including the Venice Commission. So we are, I say once, always trying to move things forward in very subtle fine-tuning. Unfortunately, it's slower than you think, but we feel very committed to this process.
Question: Constitutional amendments in line with the Minsk agreements were passed in the Ukrainian parliament today. Can they survive the peace process?
There are reports that a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Normandy format will take place soon. Is this being prepared now? Is it time for this meeting?
BK'in Merkel: We have agreed that the next step will be to have a phone call. It is possible that the foreign ministers will then consult again. But it may well happen that we will also hold such a Normandy meeting. Then of course you have to have the hope that it will also take a step forward; so it has to be well prepared. But in principle there is openness from all sides.
I would like to underline what you have just said once again: Just today there were constitutional debates again in the Ukrainian parliament, where things with a special status ’of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are not very easy for Ukraine, are being discussed. I mean, that's Ukrainian territory after all. So I think that's something MEPs have to wrestle with. I am also following this process with great respect.
Question: You mentioned that things need to be changed unbureaucratically. Does that go beyond immission control and fire protection? What do you want to change now, specifically and unbureaucratically, so that afterwards you are not exposed to the accusation that you are putting refugees in unsafe quarters?
The second question afterwards very briefly: The woman who insulted you so violently in Heidenau, which you can also see in the YouTube Internet video, and who is also being investigated, does not challenge you, as you say. But are you perhaps ready to have a dialogue with someone like that, or rather to support a lawsuit? They are being investigated against.
BK'in Merkel: I neither support the lawsuit - we are a constitutional state - nor do I now have the urgent need to enter into a longer discussion because I believe that my tasks are more about people who want to help, and people to encourage those doing something positive. Otherwise we have our legal system. On the one hand, we have freedom of expression, so as Chancellor I cannot expect people to always talk to my mouth - I am also far from that; I can endure contradiction and I am happy that I live in a country where there is diversity of opinion and freedom of expression - but this freedom of expression is limited by law. If it is then determined by the appropriate institutions, then that corresponds to our legal system. At the moment I am doing persuasive work mainly because we are coping well with the whole subject.
Now you have asked: what do we do with the standards then? - Look, we are currently faced with the following question: How is the fire protection in a tent? How is life in a tent in winter? How should the fire protection regulations be assessed if a Bundeswehr barracks or an American barracks were inhabited by soldiers until a few months ago, the fire protection maybe still had a transition period, the soldiers are now out and the completely new fire protection now applies? Do we want to and are allowed to accept asylum seekers in a barracks that may have heating, sanitary facilities and fire protection that was okay at least the day before yesterday, or must they stay in the tent instead, whereby with regard to tents in the fire protection regulations Germany has not yet been determined much? - Then we come to the conclusion that it might be better to create the transitional provision that the fire protection, the railing height, the thermal insulation and a lot of other things that have been regulated in the meantime can now be left behind if we go to one for it reasonable accommodation.
So we have a multitude of questions: Can I build in an industrial park? How does immission control law relate to this? Can an ophthalmologist do an initial health examination if he still has a license to practice medicine? Isn't a dermatologist allowed to do that? - The federal states and municipalities list dozens of such regulations, which encourage us all to simply say: In this situation we cannot adhere to them. Fortunately, we have now received confirmation from the European Union that the normal tendering rules cannot be complied with in this situation, but that certain contracts can be awarded more quickly. These are the things we need to talk about now.
Now we have two questions: Can we regulate everything individually, or, because we don't know whether there will be another 20 obstacles the day after tomorrow, we will do a more general law of standard deviation or law of acceleration, whatever you want to call it? The interior minister is thinking about this together with the federal states. The aim must be to enable the best possible accommodation and the fastest possible processing of the applications. In some places you will have to overlook the existing things, which are very much oriented towards a static situation, so to speak.
I think we shouldn't be the first to start again discussing where the danger lies, but also look: Where is the opportunity? Of course - I have often thought about it in the course of German unification - you can do everything like this: You have a school that still looks like it was in the times of socialism, and the alternative is now the greatest, best, greatest high school, from fire protection - if you work for the rbb, you know that - to the specialist cabinet, pre-university training, etc., etc., and there is nothing in between. A whole generation of students then has to be at the level of the socialist high school, so to speak. Thank God we got over that and said: there has to be something in between. That doesn't have to be the final state, but with such a challenge - - -
I also talked about the question: If you have 4,000 unaccompanied young people, then it is absolutely not possible - - - There are no educators or carers for these 4,000 according to the conventional model of the Child and Youth Welfare Act. They should all have the very best possible care. But a stay in a gym - where it's really bad, but nobody says anything about it, because if the classic child and youth welfare center isn't there, you just stay in the gym for 200 - is definitely not better, as if we were trying to sort things out slowly and sensibly. So we'll have to come up with a few things. I believe that the spirit in which the federal government and the federal states and municipalities are discussing this is now also good. Practitioners can tell you an infinite number of such stories.
What we are also not allowed to do: Then, when 500 refugees arrive, they say, “Now act once, now act once!”. We then expose all the civil servants and employees there in the district offices and municipal administrations to a state in which they have to violate the law, and we don't help them and say: We'd better not look before we do something on the Change federal level; we do not do that. - We can't do that like that. We have an obligation at the federal level to do things together. Anyway, this must always be decided jointly by the federal and state governments. That's why all parties are needed when participating.
Question: Madam Chancellor, you have just mentioned the need for increased diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict. What role do you see for Iran in this? Do you also see new diplomatic room for maneuver after the Vienna agreement on the Iranian nuclear program?
BK'in Merkel: First of all, I consider the Vienna or Geneva nuclear agreement - or whatever you call it - to be progress. It has to be implemented now. Nevertheless, I am saddened or find it unacceptable how Iran continues to talk about Israel. It is a major setback, or rather not a setback, but a disappointment that there is no change in the way of acceptance of the State of Israel.
I think Iran has a lot of influence over what is going on in Syria. Everyone is invited to participate constructively in the negotiations. Above all, however, I see the task of ensuring that work can be continued in other areas, especially in the E3 + 3 format, and the contacts with Iran are certainly helpful in this. This applies overall to the fight against IS, but it also applies to other organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Question: Good afternoon, Chancellor! I have two quick questions about your meeting with the President of Poland.
Chairman Welty: One please!
BK'in Merkel: Some people do it more skillfully by simply asking, but okay!
Chairman Welty: A question about the same question is already allowed!
BK'in Merkel: So ask a question.
Additional question: Chancellor, did you come to an agreement with President Duda on the subject of “refugees” or the subject of “NATO troops in the Baltic States or in Poland”?
Second question: President Duda said yesterday that he told Federal President Gauck in a conversation with him that there is no justice in Poland these days. Did President Duda make such a statement to you about Poland?
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