German Chancellor Angela Merkel received thunderous applause on Tuesday when she announced at her party’s annual congress that she wants to ban the full veil.
Merkel is seeking a fourth term as German chancellor and started presenting her campaign strategy at the Christian Democratic Union congress in Essen, where her party is expected to re-elect her as party chief.
“The same laws apply for everyone in Germany. For everyone without exception. Our rights have priority over tribal laws and Sharia laws,” Merkel said at the conference according to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. “Part of this is that here, we show our faces. The full veil is not appropriate here and should be forbidden.”
The chancellor said the Germany faced an extraordinary humanitarian crisis last year when hundreds of thousands of refugees made their way to the country. But she said not all of those who came would be able to stay in Germany.
“A situation like that of last summer cannot and should not repeat itself. This is my declared political goal,” she said at the beginning of her speech.
Merkel is facing a tough re-election battle. Her approval numbers have plummeted as Germans grow increasingly wary of her welcome policy for refugees. Many of the one million asylum seekers who came to Germany are Muslim and part of the population fear that the difference in culture and religion will prevent them from integrating into German society.
Since last year, the anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has garnered unprecedented support as Germans started finding the party’s extreme stances more appealing.
Merkel’s plans to fight this surge are some of the main points she is expected to make during her address to the CDU congress and the proposed face veil ban will undoubtedly appeal to voters who might have considered voting for parties with more extreme agendas.
But, the chancellor also reiterated her opposition to the populist parties, saying that they would not get to define German national identity.
“We all get to determine who ‘the people’ are, not just a few, no matter how loud they are,” Merkel said — and warned against easy answers: “The world is not black and white. Rarely do the easy answers bring progress to our country.”
The chancellor also mentioned that the United Kingdom would not be allowed to “cherry-pick” what parts of being in the EU it wants to keep or leave behind during the negotiations and added that the stabilisation of the EU was a key priority in these times of growing international instability.
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