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6 Dec, 2016 14:35

Face veils must be banned in Germany ‘wherever legally possible’ – Merkel

Muslim full-face veils should be banned in Germany “wherever it is legally possible,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told delegates at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) congress, adding that German law “takes precedence” over the Islamic code of Sharia.

“The full-face veil must be banned wherever it is legally possible,” Merkel said at the two-day party congress held in the western German town of Essen. She was presenting her political program and also launched her bid for another term as CDU leader and German chancellor.

She went on to call “security and order, justice and law” some of the pillars of the CDU’s political agenda, and stressed that “all Germans who always lived here as well as those who just arrived” should observe the law.

“Here in Germany … the laws of our country… are applied equally to everyone without any exception,” the chancellor stressed. There should be no parallel societies, Merkel added, emphasizing that “German law takes precedence over Sharia.”

The chancellor also promised that she would do her best to avoid a recurrence of the 2015 refugee crisis. “We have repeatedly stated that that situation that occurred in late summer, 2015, cannot, should not, and will not be repeated,” she told party delegates.

Merkel also assured the CDU members that “not everyone out of the 890,000 people who came here last year can and will stay.” At the same time, she said that every refugee case should be regarded as an isolated instance “and not as a part of some crowd.”

She also defended the refugee deal between the EU and Turkey that has provoked controversy in Europe. This agreement remains “decisive” for successful reconciliation of the refugee crisis, the chancellor said, stressing that the deal “saves lives every day.”

Merkel criticized other European countries for not doing enough to resolve the refugee crisis. She said she is not satisfied with the level of cooperation between the EU members in dealing with the challenge, and called for “more solidarity” within the bloc.

Only whole nation can say who ‘the people’ are – Merkel

In her congress speech, the chancellor also sharply criticized the various anti-immigrant, anti-Islamist and right-wing populist movements that have gained traction in Germany amid the refugee crisis.

Merkel said she had “an impression that it is those who live in Germany for a long time who urgently need to attend some integration courses,” rather than the migrants. She also called on everyone in the country to make an effort and reach “a certain level of culture of discussion.”

She particularly slammed “aggressiveness” and “hate messages” posted online, adding that the internet “must not become a space free of legal regulation.”

Merkel went on to condemn the aspirations of some anti-immigrant movements to act as the “representatives of the German people.” She particularly attacked the ‘We are the people!’ slogan used by the German ‘anti-Islamization’ movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West).

“It is only the whole nation that can decide who ‘the people’ are. We all decide it and not some marginal groups, irrespective of how vocal they are,” Merkel said.

Merkel first officially announced her decision to run for a fourth term as chancellor at a meeting of the CDU presidency in late November.

At the time, she said that having spent 11 years in office she “knows for sure what to do next,” and promised to “wage an election campaign that would be absolutely different from all previous ones.”

Merkel was re-elected as CDU leader and a candidate for the chancellery at the congress on Tuesday with 89.5 percent of the delegate votes, German media report.

Broader public support for Merkel is also evident, according to a survey conducted by the Emnid Institute for Bild newspaper in November. About 55 percent of Germans are supportive of her bid for a fourth term, the poll showed.

Merkel has been the leader of the CDU since 2000 and has held the post of chancellor for 11 years. If she succeeds in 2017, she will find herself in the company of the two leaders that have held power for the longest periods in the history of modern Germany – CDU co-founder Konrad Adenauer, and Helmut Kohl.

Adenauer was in power for 14 years, while Kohl led Germany for 16 years.

Merkel’s bid to remain chancellor comes as Germany continues to face a refugee crisis. Germany witnessed a massive influx of approximately 900,000 refugees in 2015, with up to 300,000 expected to arrive this year, according to Frank-Jurgen Weise, head of the country’s migration agency (BAMF).

The inflow of asylum seekers has sparked a surge of anti-immigrant sentiment in German society, allowing right-wing populist forces to gain popularity and forcing the government to toughen its refugee policy.

In late November, Merkel announced that up to 100,000 rejected asylum seekers would be returned from Germany to their home countries by the end of the year.