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Merkel Calls For A More Open World: 'We Won't Get Anywhere' With Populism

German chancellor says it’s counterproductive to try 'to solve problems with polarization'.

24/01/2017 11:47 AM AEDT | Updated 24/01/2017 11:47 AM AEDT
Credit: Sean Gallup via Getty Images
In a speech Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the rise of populism wouldn't get the world "anywhere."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said the populist hope to “return to a small world” would not benefit society, instead calling for openness and acceptance during a speech to church leaders in Würzburg, Germany.

The address was one of the first Merkel gave this year. While it didn’t specifically address the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, it was a pointed remark about the spread of nationalism in America, Britain and across Europe that’s already begun to undermine international accords and threaten efforts to deal with the ongoing migrant crisis.

“We won’t get anywhere by trying to solve problems with polarization and populism,” she said during the speech, according to Reuters. “We’ve got to show that we’re committed to the basic principles of our nation.”

Merkel spoke about Germany’s role in shepherding nearly a million refugees from the Middle East into the country, saying society was put to “a hard test” last year, the Münchner Merkur reported.

She continued to call on citizens and immigrants to work toward integration, while she acknowledged concerns over the amount and integration of migrants and refugees by saying that those who don’t have the right to stay in the country would have to leave.

While Merkel has yet to meet Trump, the president already criticized the U.S. ally this month, saying that Merkel made an “utterly catastrophic mistake” by having an open-door policy on refugees.

But despite the jab, Merkel said she’d look forward to exchanging “ideas with respect” with Trump following his darkly worded inaugural address on Friday, Reuters reported.

“I say two things with regards to this [speech]: First, I believe firmly that it is best for all of us if we work together based on rules, common values and joint action in the international economic system, in the international trade system, and make our contributions to the military alliances,” she said Saturday.

Since Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the success of the far right Front National party in France, the chancellor has faced a growing call for Germany to be one of the last bastions of global democracy following Trump’s election. The New York Times said Merkel may be “the liberal west’s last defender,” while Politico said she may have to take up the mantle of “global savior.” 

“She’s the last one standing, and that makes her both strong and weak at the same time,” Stefan Kornelius, one of her biographers, told The New York Times in November. “She’s a pillar of stability, the last wall, and people want to lean against it.”

Eline Gordts contributed reporting.

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