Bavaria leader rejects Merkel’s ‘we can do this’ refugee mantra

Bavarian state premier and leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer attends a news conference in Sankt Quirin, Germany, July 26, 2016.   REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
state premier and leader of the CSU Seehofer attends a news
conference in Sankt Quirin


MUNICH (Reuters) – Bavaria’s state premier took aim at Chancellor
Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy on Saturday, rejecting
her “we can do this” mantra just two days after she defended the
message following Islamist attacks in Germany.

The comments from Horst Seehofer, whose Christian Social Union is
the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s conservatives, exacerbate
the chancellor’s difficulty in standing by a policy that her
critics have blamed for the attacks and which risks undermining
her popularity ahead of federal elections next year.

Five attacks in Germany since July 18 have left 15 people dead,
including four assailants, and dozens injured. Two of the
attackers had links to Islamist militancy, officials say.

“‘We can do this’ – I cannot, with the best will, adopt this
phrase as my own,” Seehofer told reporters after a meeting of his

The comments from Seehofer, who said following the attacks that
“all our predictions have been proven right”, came after Merkel
on Thursday defiantly repeated the “we can do this” mantra and
vowed not to bend her refugee policy.

“The problem is too big for that and the attempts at a solution
thus far too unsatisfactory,” said Seehofer, whose state bore the
brunt of the attacks. “Restrictions on immigration are a
condition for security in this country.”

Over a million migrants have entered Germany in the past year,
many fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Merkel on Thursday set out a nine-point plan to respond to the
attacks, including measures to recruit more staff for security
agencies, and an early warning system for the radicalization of

But the chancellor’s popularity, eroded by the refugee crisis, is
likely to suffer again after a temporary boost following
Britain’s vote last month to leave the European Union.

Merkel faced criticism on social media after failing to react
until the next day – and 17 hours after U.S. President Barack
Obama – to the bloodiest of the attacks, in Munich, where an
18-year-old German-Iranian gunman killed nine people.

(Reporting by Jens Hack; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Dale

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