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Angela Merkel Faces Criticism For Germany's Open-Door Migrant Policy


The terrorist attack this week in Berlin raised questions about the future of German politics, as Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks a fourth term. Right-wing political parties in particular are criticizing Merkel's open-door policy on migrants, with one opposition leader even calling the victims of the attack at Berlin's Christmas market Merkel's dead. We spoke with Josef Joffe, publisher editor of Die Zeit.

He says the circumstances of the German investigation of the attack reflect poorly on lower levels of government but not necessarily on Merkel.

JOSEF JOFFE: What we are talking about here is an enormous Keystone Cop operation between the various lender of the federal states of Germany who kept screwing up on their own each way. It was not, at this point, as far as we know, a federal failure. So it's not going to land on her head for the time being.

WERTHEIMER: Do you expect her to survive to a fourth term? Do you think she'll have a fourth term?

JOFFE: Yes, well, first of all, what we need to know is whether we will have more such attacks. Of course, this one, which has been the most serious terror attack in Germany since Israeli athletes were murdered in Munich in 1972 during the Olympics. So far, they've remained very isolated. But, of course, if you now go from one to the next, then we have a different situation. However, it's a wakeup call.

And so security is being beefed up in every Christmas market in Germany, surveillance is intensified. And so there's a higher degree of preparation. In American terms, you would call it it's a higher DEFCON than there was before.

WERTHEIMER: Does this mean that Merkel is going to be harsher in her own policies? She's been, I mean, it's been an article of faith with her that Germany should be open and Germany should be welcoming.

JOFFE: Yeah. Remember that this open-doors policy was proclaimed last summer. And since then, things have changed dramatically. She did not have to change her policy verbally because German borders didn't have to be closed because everybody else closed their borders. So instead of 800,000 that came in last year, it's now come down to about 200,000.

So what she gets is the best of all possible worlds - she doesn't have to change doctrine, yet other countries around Germany are lowering the price, as it were, of the open-door policy.

WERTHEIMER: And so it's sort of win-win for her.

JOFFE: No, it's not a win-win but it's also not a lose-lose. Remember how politics works. There's an old American saying that says you can't beat somebody with nobody. And there is no somebody, not among the social Democrats. If you match up her against the most likely candidate, you know, there's a gap of 30 points between them.

So there's no threat against her in her own party. So if you ask me to bet, she will be re-elected.

WERTHEIMER: Josef Joffe from Die Zeit, thank you very much for this.

JOFFE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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