German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who just last week was named TIME magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year for her stance on the refugee crisis, received a seven-minute (or nine-minute, according to some reports) standing ovation Monday for a speech at her ruling Christian Democratic Union congress in which she promised to “tangibly reduce” the number of refugees coming into her country. Still, The Independent reported, she said it was Germany’s humanitarian duty to take in war refugees. “We are going to manage this — if there are obstacles to overcome, then we will have to work to overcome them. We are ready to show what we are made of.” Germany has taken in an estimated one million refugees this year. Watch the video below to see some of her remarks, with translation, and a clip of the audience’s reaction.
Another noteworthy theme that turned up in Merkel’s speech was disdain for multiculturalism, according to The Washington Post. “Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and therefore remains a ‘life lie,’” the chancellor said. She went on to say that Germany may be reaching its limit in terms of accepting more refugees. “The challenge is immense,” she said. “We want and we will reduce the number of refugees noticeably.” The remarks, coming just days after being praised in the pages of pages of TIME for “standing firm against tyranny” may surprise some. But, as the Post notes, the stance echoes remarks she made five years ago.
In a 2010 speech, Merkel denounced multiculturalism in no uncertain terms, saying, “Of course the tendency had been to say, ‘Let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other.’ But this concept has failed, and failed utterly.”
Despite her vow to reduce the number of refugees coming into the country, Merkel still refused to set a ceiling on the number of migrants allowed to enter Germany, or to deploy more controls on the country’s borders “until necessary.” But she acknowledged the enormity of the challenge that mass immigration presents for Germany and called on other European nations to help share the burden. Her plan to reduce refugee numbers focused on Germany’s support for tougher measures on the European Union’s border, specifically the sea between Greece and Turkey. And she still plans for the German government to give billions in aid to help Turkey cope with its refugee population. She also wants measures to speed up the return of migrants who failed to qualify for asylum.
Merkel’s speech was roundly seen as a success, but the occasion didn’t unfold without a little bit of a stumble — literally. At one point, as she exited the stage, the chancellor lost her footing and appeared to be falling, before she regained her balance and called off Bavarian State Premier and Christian Social Union leader Horst Seehofer’s attempts to help her.
The standing ovation was an important show of solidarity from her party’s delegates. Merkel had been widely criticized, even within her own party, for not having a handle on the ongoing refugee crisis. Horst Seehofer, who’d blasted Merkel last month, sang her praises at the event on Monday. “We have an excellent chancellor,” Seehofer said, a remark that, according to The Daily Mail, drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd. “Our chancellor does a first class job of representing us in the world. She is also highly regarded in Germany — and I stress also in Bavaria,” he added. But he also reminded Merkel that he still wants a defined cap on the number of migrants allowed to enter the country.