BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened her traditional summer news conference Monday by noting that — while the suffering is real and the stories are too often tragic — there are positives Germans can take from the refugee crisis now engulfing her nation and all of Europe.
Her words came as other European leaders have cast migrants and refugees as a threat to Europe, even at times tying their arrival to the current terror threat facing the continent. She also spoke after a weekend during which several German leaders, for the first time, noted that even last week’s updated forecasts on the number of migrants expected to arrive in Germany this year understate the issue.
Last week, the forecast was as many as 800,000 this year. This weekend, two state governors said they were preparing for 1 million asylum seekers by the end of 2015.
“If so many people brave such hardship to come here, this is a sign of approval for us,” Merkel said. “The world sees Germany as a country of hope and of chances. That hasn’t always been the case.”
Germany in the past several generations was the source of many of the events and groups that send chills down the spine of the civilized world: the Holocaust, Nazism, the Gestapo and the Stasi.
But Germany has changed. In this crisis, it has taken in more migrants than other Europeans nations. But even with the continent’s most powerful economy, Germany cannot deal with the crisis alone. “The countries of Europe have to share the responsibility of caring for asylum seekers,” Merkel said. “After all, universal civil rights were a founding element of the European Union. If Europe fails to cope with this refugee crisis, it will no longer be the Europe we cherish.”
The chancellor added that the refugee issue will take years to work out and might require that bureaucratic standards be suspended. Building standards might have to be ignored. She said Germany needs more teachers and teaching methods to help the young refugees now arriving.
She also stressed acceptance, saying” : “There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people. There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.”
Her words came days after two governors, whose states are responsible for housing and processing their fair share of the refugees now flooding into Germany, said the numbers arriving this year will soar past the current estimates.
“Our state government is proactively getting ready for more than forecast to arrive,” said Brandenburg Gov. Dietmar Woidke. “Even so, I’m afraid we’re going to have to resort to winterized tents. We have to have a plan.”