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Merkel to counter ‘terrorist hatred with unity’

Angela Merkel is to call on Germany to withstand the test of Islamist terrorism by countering the militants’ “hatred” with “humanity” and “unity,” days after the truck attack on a Christmas market.

In her New Year’s address, the chancellor will condemn the Berlin attack in which 12 people were killed. It is believed to have been carried out by Anis Amri, a Tunisian who was killed in a shootout with police in Italy last week. She will also acknowledge the failings of Germany’s security arrangements, saying that the government will introduce any necessary political or legal changes next year.

We are free, considerate, open . . . [Our values] are the antithesis of the hate-filled world of terrorism. And they will be stronger than terrorism

But Ms Merkel will defend her open-door refugee policy, saying Germany was right to welcome those in need, referring to the Syrian conflict that has caused hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee to Europe.

“With the images of the bombed in Aleppo in Syria, one may say once again how important and right it was that our country in the past year allowed those who actually need our help to be here with us, to take a step and to integrate,” she will say in Saturday’s speech. “All this — it is reflected in our democracy, in our state, in our values.”

The speech comes at a critical time for the chancellor as she hopes to secure a fourth term at elections next year. Ms Merkel’s refugee policies have drawn criticism from the rightwing elements of her own Christian Democratic Party (CDU), as well as the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which has seen its popularity rise amid public concern about the influx of foreigners.

Ms Merkel said recently that next year’s election would be her toughest and she admits in her speech that 2016 has been a year full of “severe tests”.

The market attack near the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church in west Berlin was the third of its kind in 2016 blamed on refugees — Amri had applied for asylum but was rejected. In July, an axe-wielding teenager from Afghanistan wounded five people on a train in Würzburg. Days later, a Syrian man blew himself up outside a bar in Ansbach, injuring 15 people in what was Germany’s first suicide bombing.

But she will say she is “confident” that Germany will succeed in countering “the terrorists’ world of hatred” with “our humanity and our unity”.

“We are free, considerate, open . . . [Our values] are the antithesis of the hate-filled world of terrorism. And they will be stronger than terrorism,” she will say.

Ms Merkel is expected to win the elections but the attacks and the immigration debate have dented her approval ratings and led to a surge in support for the AfD. The issues have also sparked concerns within the CDU and the CSU, its Bavarian sister party, about how they will perform at the polls.

Ms Merkel will use her speech to hit back at criticism of the EU and questions over the bloc’s future in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote.

The chancellor’s rhetoric suggests she will challenge populist sentiment rather than seek to appease it — not only by defending the decision to keep the country’s borders open but also by countering broader attacks on European integration.

“Yes, Europe is slow. It is painful. It has deep incisions like the withdrawal of a member state. And, yes, Europe should focus on what it can really do better than the nation state,” she will say. “[But] where Europe — in global competition, in protecting our external borders or migration — faces issues together, it must find answers together. No matter how arduous and tough that is.”

Via FT