Angela Merkel has called for a ban on the burka “wherever possible” in Germany and said there can be no repeat of last year’s migrant crisis in a speech launching her bid for another two-year term as Chancellor.
“German law takes precedence over sharia,” Mrs Merkel said during a speech at her party’s annual two-day congress in the western city of Essen.
“The full face veil should be banned, wherever legally possible,” she added, to prolonged applause.
That is expected to mean a ban on burkas in public life including for civil servants, schools, universities and while driving – described as a “burka ban lite” when her government proposed it a few months ago.
Party faithful from Mrs Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are expected to overwhelmingly re-elect Mrs Merkel as party chief today, rallying behind her bid to stay in power.
Mrs Merkel, who has led Germany for 11 years, last month confirmed she would run for a fourth term but acknowledged that the election would be “more difficult” than any other she has contested.
She has come under fire for her “open doors” approach to refugee crisis. Germany saw about 890,000 asylum-seekers arrive last year, many after Mrs Merkel decided in September 2015 to let in migrants who were stuck in Hungary.
On Tuesday she said that situation “should not and must not be repeated”.
“That was and is our, and my, declared political aim,” she said.
Thomas de Maiziere, the interior minister and one of Mrs Merkel’s closest allies, first announced the CDU’s burka ban policy in August.
At a glance | Where burkas are banned
Full burka and niqab ban
- France, since 2004
- Belgium, since 2011
- Chad, since 2015
- Cameroon, in five provinces, since 2015
- Diffa, Niger, since 2015
- Brazzaville, Congo, since 2015
- Tessin, Switzerland, since 2016
- Around 30 French coastal towns had issued bans, but France’s highest court ruled against them on 26th August, meaning that burkini bans are now illegal.
Partial burka and niqab ban
- The Netherlands: Women cannot have their faces covered in schools, hospital and on public transport.
- The Italian town of Novara: Women were told to stop wearing a full veil in 2010, but there is no established fines system.
- Parts of Catalonia, Spain: The country’s Supreme Court ruled against a ban in some areas in 2013, however those areas which brought their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have continued with the ban – supported by an ECHR ruling in their favour in 2014.
- Turkey: A full ban was abandoned in 2013. Now, women are only barred if they work in the judiciary, military and police.
“We all reject the full veil — not only the burka but also other types of full veil that only leave the eyes visible. They have no place in our society,” Mr Maiziere said at the time.
“Showing your face is essential for our communication, co-existence and social cohesion and that’s why we’re asking everyone to show their faces,” he added. “We want to introduce a law to make people show their faces and that means that those who break that law will have to face the consequences.”
Mrs Merkel also made her own feelings on the issue clear in an interview with a number of German newspapers in August.
“In my view, a fully veiled woman has almost no chance of integrating successfully in German society,” she said.