‘We can do it’ motto becoming hollow, Merkel admits

German Chancellor Angela Merkel © Stefanie Loos
The notorious “we can do it” motto has now become “an empty formula” which is not necessary to repeat, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in reference to the sharply criticized statement she made during the height of last year’s refugee crisis.

The latest remark comes ahead of a local election in Berlin, which is expected to deliver yet another blow to Chancellor Merkel’s ailing CDU party.

Since summer 2015, the so-called “grand coalition” of center-left Social Democrats and center-right CDU/CSU alliance has been losing electoral support, with observers directly linking their poor performance with Merkel’s refugee policy.

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In August last year, she voiced her famous “We can do it” slogan, which referred to Germany’s capacity to host the overwhelming number of refugees arriving in the country. Merkel’s popularity took a hit with her coalition partners saying that she made a mistake by pursuing the “open-door policy.”

“[The statement] is part of my political activity because I am convinced that we are a strong country which will come even stronger out of this situation,” Merkel told Wirtschafts Woche on Saturday.

 She then claimed that the once plain and simple remark has been misperceived by the public to the extent that repeating it is now useless.

“But sometimes I also think that it has been exaggerated… so much that I would hardly like to repeat it, and this plain kind of motto has almost become an empty phrase.

“Some people even believe that the [motto] is a kind of provocation. But obviously, there was nothing but inspiration in it,” the Chancellor added.

In the meantime, she said, it does not mean that the motto is now declared null and void. “It means that I do not personally repeat this phrase every day again and again,” Merkel stressed.

However, the cautiously-worded statement could indicate a change in her approach towards refugees. Ahead of next year’s general election for parliament, Merkel’s partners demand that she take a tougher stance on the issue.

Otherwise, some of them warn, the “open-door policy” will play right into the hands of the far-right, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party, whose popularity has been on the rise since 2015.

Earlier this week, Horst Seehofer, Prime Minister of Bavaria and leader of the CSU, the junior coalition party of Merkel’s CDU demanded that the Chancellor introduce an upper limit on refugees, with no more than 200,000 new arrivals allowed in the country each year.

Should Merkel fail to do so, Seehofer told Spiegel on Friday, his party will not help the Chancellor during the 2017 general election – a clear sign that nerves in the conservative bloc are on edge ahead of the parliamentary race.