Germany could scrap asylum pledge from constitution, says leading candidate to replace Merkel

Friedrich Merz questions whether constitutional principle enshrined after Second World War ‘can continue in this form’

Adam Forrest
Friday 23 November 2018 12:54
Comments
Foreign minister wants to be Christian Democrats' leader
Foreign minister wants to be Christian Democrats' leader

One of the leading candidates to succeed Angela Merkel as the head of Germany’s Christian Democrat party has questioned the fundamental right to asylum enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Friedrich Merz said there should be a discussion about whether the constitutional principle “can continue in this form if we seriously want a European immigration and refugee policy”.

The veteran politician said his country’s “individual right to asylum” was unique, before suggesting that a new “legal reservation” could be built into the constitution stating that refugees’ rights would be subject to European rules.

Drawn up after the end of the Second World War, the German constitution states that “persons persecuted on political grounds shall have the right of asylum.”

Mr Merz's comments provoked criticism from the Christian Democrats’ partners in coalition government.

Foreign minister Heiko Maas, of the centre-left Social Democrats, tweeted that “our fundamental right to asylum is a historic achievement. There is nothing to change.”

He argued the German constitution already makes sure there is no conflict with European law.

In response, Mr Merz told German news agency dpa that he was not questioning the basic right to asylum and stands by a policy based on “Christian responsibility and the background of German history.”

A former leader of the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary group, Mr Merz left the Christian Democrats in 2009.

As a corporate lawyer, he went on to take up a number of positions on company boards, becoming a millionaire in the process.

He is now seeking a comeback after a decade away from front-line politics.

He stands for a more right-wing approach to immigration than Ms Merkel, as does another leadership contender - health minister Jens Spahn.

The party is seeking to dent the appeal of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has capitalised on discontent over immigration.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

But Mr Merz’s remarks on asylum was condemned by his rival Mr Spahn.

“The constitutional right to asylum for political refugees is a great virtue of our constitution, created against the background of two world wars, great suffering and vast displacements,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Merz and the Christian Democrats’ general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer - who appears more in tune with Merkel’s centrist approach - are viewed as the front-runners.

Whoever succeeds in becoming the new party leader on 7 December will be the favourite to become the conservative candidate for chancellor at Germany’s next national election.

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in