BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel says the influx of migrants won't fundamentally change Germany, a year after she first insisted that "we will manage" the refugee crisis.
Merkel said in an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung published Wednesday that her mantra — which she has used repeatedly since coining it on Aug. 31 last year and which has divided opinion in Germany — remains "the right motif for this task."
On Sept. 4 last year, a few days after she first used it, she and Austria's then-chancellor decided to let in migrants who had piled up in Hungary. Germany registered over a million newcomers last year, though the actual number is believed to be lower, and the influx has unsettled many residents.
"Germany will remain Germany, with everything that is dear to us," Merkel was quoted as saying.
She added that there has been constant change over the decades and that "change is not a bad thing — it is a necessary part of life," but made clear that Germany won't give up its values.
Merkel conceded that, in earlier years, Germany ignored the issue of migrants heading for Europe and the need for a pan-European solution.
"A lot of refugees already came in 2004 and 2005, and we left it to Spain and others on the (EU) external borders to deal with that," she said. "And, yes, we also resisted a proportional distribution of refugees then."
"Germany was very happy that, after the many refugees we had taken in during the wars in Yugoslavia, others mostly now had to deal with the issue," she added. "I can't deny that."
Merkel and the European Union's executive Commission have made little headway with efforts to get other EU nations to share the burden of hosting the refugees who arrived in the current influx.
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