BERLIN (Reuters) – Under pressure to toughen their stance on migrants, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives called on Thursday for an effective ban on the burqa, saying the full body covering worn by some Muslim women should not be worn in public.
In its main resolution for a looming party congress in the city of Karlsruhe that is shaping up as a test of Merkel’s authority, the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) resisted calls by some members for an “Obergrenze”, or cap on the number of refugees entering Germany.
But to satisfy the critics, they adopted tough language on a range of immigration-related subjects, from security to integration.
Roughly one million asylum seekers, many from Muslim countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are expected to arrive in Germany this year, far more than in any other European country. This has hit support for the ruling CDU and pushed down Merkel’s popularity ratings.
Some members of her own party say she must get the number of arrivals down by the time three state elections are held in March or her hopes of running for a fourth term in 2017 would be in danger.
The 18-page resolution, which will be debated by CDU delegates at the congress starting on Monday in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, says Muslim garments for women that cover the entire body are at odds with German values.
“Anyone who wears them is demonstrating that they are not ready to integrate in our free and open society. Therefore we reject the use of full-body coverings in public,” the resolution reads.
Neighbouring France adopted a “burqa ban” in 2011 but Germany has resisted such a step.
The CDU resolution also calls for criminalising expressions of support for “terrorist organisations” over the internet and for limits on the right of migrants who are granted asylum to bring their families to Germany.
It also warns that if the European Union is not able to gain control over its external borders, that the Schengen free-travel zone cannot remain in place in the long-term.
“We want to keep Schengen,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told a news conference to present the resolution.
“The end of Schengen would have significant consequences. It would cause collateral damage economically, politically and in other areas. Nevertheless we are saying here that Schengen is in danger.”