Merkel ally Manfred Weber apologises for pledging 'final solution' to refugee question

The top MEP has teamed up with illiberal Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán

Jon Stone
Brussels
Monday 08 January 2018 10:43 GMT
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Manfred Weber arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May
Manfred Weber arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May (EPA)

A senior German politician has apologised after pledging to enact a “final solution” to the refugee question in Europe.

Manfred Weber’s political opponents pointed out that the top MEP’s language on the refugee crisis bore a striking resemblance Nazi terminology used during the Third Reich in relation to Jews.

But the CSU MEP, who is a member of Angela Merkel’s political alliance and who heads up the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament, said he now regretted making the comments.

“My choice of words yesterday was wrong and I regret it. But accusing me of intending any further associations is dishonest and completely mischaracterises my personal view and position,” he said.

“This is where I remain on the issue: We need in 2018 a European answer to the migration challenge. We Europeans must offer further protection for people in need and at the same time stop illegal migration.”

Speaking at a party retreat in the Bavarian monastery town of Seeon, Mr Weber had said, according to German newspaper Bayerischer Rundfunk: “In 2018, the central European issue will be the final solution to the refugee issue.”

Mr Weber described the policy as a "finale Lösung", a very similar term, especially when translated into English, to the word "Endlösung", used by the Nazis to describe the Holocaust.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was at the meeting
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was at the meeting

German media such as the magazine Der Spiegel said the wording “clearly recalls the Nazi era”.

The comments were particularly contentious because the meeting happened to be attended by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán – who has been repeatedly accused of deploying antisemitic tropes in his campaign against refugees and Jewish businessman George Soros.

Mr Weber pledged an alliance with the so-called Visegrád states of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The countries have formed an anti-refugee bloc and European level, and Poland in Hungary in particular have elected increasingly authoritarian and illiberal governments.

The CSU, which is technically a separate party to Angela Merkel’s CDU despite a long-term electoral alliance, lost out to the rise of the far-right AfD and has long called for a more hardline right-wing direction to win back voters, especially on immigration.

As leader of the EPP Mr Weber commands the largest bloc of votes in the European Parliament.

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