Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed on Wednesday to stick to her open-door refugee policy, defying criticism at home and abroad which has intensified due to growing fears about a potential security risk after the Islamist attacks in Paris.
In a 40-minute speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament, Merkel said the security threat level in Germany was high but insisted that people must carry on with normal life.
“The strongest response to terrorists is to carry on living our lives and our values as we have until now–self-confident and free, considerate and engaged,” she said to loud applause.
“We Europeans will show our free life is stronger than any terror,” Merkel added, battling with a croaky voice.
Germany, which has since World War Two been reluctant to join military missions abroad, said earlier it is sending 650 soldiers to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali and increasing the number of troops training Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq.
But in addition, Merkel stressed her commitment to her disputed refugee policy, saying Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, has a duty to protect those fleeing war and conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In a nod to critics in her conservative party, especially in Bavaria, where most of the migrants enter Germany, she said that migrants who do not need protection must be sent home.
“But simply sealing ourselves off will not solve the problem,” she said. Merkel repeated her “we will cope” mantra and reiterated her argument that Europe must tackle the causes of the crisis by working for peace in Syria and engaging Turkey as a partner in the refugee crisis.