Welcoming refugees may have ushered in Merkel’s final act

In this Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 file photo German Chancellor and party chairwoman Angela Merkel waves during the party convention of the Christian Democratic Union CDU in Berlin, Germany. (AP)
Updated 06 December 2018
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Welcoming refugees may have ushered in Merkel’s final act

  • Opening Germany’s doors to more than a million refugees may come to define Chancellor Angela Merkel’s legacy
  • Syrians and Iraqis fleeing conflict in the Middle East dubbed the chancellor “Mama Merkel”

BERLIN: Opening Germany’s doors to more than a million refugees may come to define Chancellor Angela Merkel’s legacy, a landmark moment in her career that sparked a backlash which could hasten her political exit.
It was “the decision of her life,” weekly Die Zeit judged recently, ahead of a vote on Friday that will crown a new head of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Merkel has led since 2000.
Late summer 2015 saw hundreds of thousands of refugees attempt to reach Europe in often appalling conditions — prompting Merkel to welcome those who found themselves stuck in Hungary.
After completing the journey to the Austrian-German border by coach or train or even on foot, many were welcomed by Germans with bouquets of flowers, food and other supplies.
Syrians and Iraqis fleeing conflict in the Middle East dubbed the chancellor “Mama Merkel,” the compassionate European who had offered them shelter — often in requisitioned gym halls or disused barracks.
The nickname is “just a joke, it oversimplifies things,” says Rami Rihawi, a 22-year-old Syrian from Aleppo who arrived in Berlin in late 2015, spending seven months living with 300 other people in a gym.
“But she will go down in history” for the choices she made back then, he predicted.
Rihawi met Merkel in 2017 when she visited a training center for young computer programmers where he was studying, before he was hired as a software developer at a start-up.


UK lawmakers impede path to no-deal Brexit in parliamentary vote

Updated 6 min 22 sec ago
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UK lawmakers impede path to no-deal Brexit in parliamentary vote

  • House of Commons passed a motion Thursday
  • Thursday's 315-274 Commons vote saw several ministers abstain

LONDON: British lawmakers have put a roadblock in the path of any attempt to take Britain out of the European Union without a divorce deal.
The House of Commons passed a motion Thursday that stops the government from suspending Parliament in the weeks before the UK's scheduled Oct. 31 departure date.
Boris Johnson, who is likely to be elected Britain's new prime minister next week, has not ruled out such a suspension if lawmakers try to block his Brexit plan. He says the country must leave the EU on schedule, even if that means quitting the bloc without a divorce deal.
Most economists say a no-deal Brexit would batter the economy, and a majority of lawmakers opposes leaving without an agreement.
Thursday's 315-274 Commons vote saw several ministers abstain rather than support the government's call to keep suspending Parliament as an option.