German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a partial ban on face-covering veils, and stressed her determination to prevent a repeat of last year’s migrant influx.
Face-covering veils are rarely seen in Germany, and Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has concluded that an all-out ban isn’t constitutionally feasible.
The party announced plans for a partial ban on veiling earlier this year, specifically in schools, universities and while driving.
She told delegates at the CDU party congress that “parallel societies” won’t be tolerated and advocated banning the wearing of full-face veils used by some Muslim women.
“Full veiling is not appropriate here, it should be banned wherever that is legally possible,” Ms Merkel said, drawing loud applause.
Striking a decidedly conservative note, Ms Merkel also said she also wants to stem the flow of migrants after her open door policy saw about 890,000 asylum seekers and refugees arrive in Germany last year.
Many came after Ms Merkel decided in September 2015 to let in migrants who were stuck in Hungary.
The numbers have since declined sharply, but Ms Merkel’s “we will cope” approach to the migrant crisis has provoked discord within the CDU, which has seen a string of poor state election results this year.
“A situation like the one in the late summer of 2015 cannot, should not and must not be repeated,” Ms Merkel said.
While Germany will continue to take in refugees, she said her government had toughened asylum rules and declared several countries “safe”, meaning people from there can’t expect to stay.
Ms Merkel was also a driving force behind an agreement between the European Union and Turkey in March to stem the flow of migrants.
She went on to win a new term as conservative leader at the meeting, as the party prepares for next year’s German elections.
Merkel under pressure from nationalist politicians
Ms Merkel won 89.5 per cent of delegates’ votes at a congress of her Christian Democratic Union for a new two-year term.
That was short of the 96.7 per cent she won in 2014, but still a solid mandate as she prepares to seek a fourth term as chancellor.
Polls show a solid lead for the conservatives, although their support is still short of the 41.5 per cent they won in Germany’s 2013 election.
They face new competition from the upstart nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which has thrived by attacking Ms Merkel’s migrant policies.
“The 2017 election will be more difficult than any election before, at least since German reunification,” Ms Merkel said, citing the “strong polarisation of our society”.
But she also hit out at anti-migrant and anti-government protesters who chant “We are the people!” or post hate messages on social media.
“Who the people are … is something that we will all determine, not just a few, however loud they may be,” she said.