UK press is spinning Angela Merkel’s remarks about EU border checks

Here's what the German chancellor really said about the Schengen zone


Today’s newspapers are spinning remarks by German chancellor Angela Merkel to promote a right-wing agenda on Europe.

Headlines in the Times, Sun, Daily Express, Telegraph, and Daily Mail suggest Merkel is fed up with immigration and free movement in the EU.

This is highly misleading – in some cases, wilfully so. 

Mrs Merkel did call into question the future of passport-free movement in the EU’s so-called Schengen Zone of 26 countries (excluding the UK) which people can travel between without going through border checks.

But she did so in the following context.

Germany recieves by far the most asylum claims in Europe, as this graph for applications from June 2014 to June 2015 shows. Note Germany 259,000 as compared with Britain’s 33,000.


(Source: Home Office)

Germany expects to receive 800,000 people from Syria, Eritrea and elsewhere by the end of the year.

Contra what you will read today, and in stark contrast to the hysteria of the UK government, German politicians have repeatedly said they can cope with this level of migration. In her most recent remarks, chancellor Merkel said: ‘Germany is a strong country – we will manage.’

This is despite a much greater impact on German society than Britain has experienced.

The German magazine Der Spiegel contrasts the warm welcome and support many Germans have shown the new arrivals, including offering space in their own homes to house them, with recent arson attacks on refugee hostels by German nationalists.

Chancellor Merkel has condemned the attacks in the strongest terms and praised the compassion and generosity of German citizens.

But she expects Europe to do more to improve its migration arrangements, with each country taking its fair share of people.

Failure to do this, she said, would obviously threaten the current system of having no passport checks between countries in the Schengen zone. She said:

“If we don’t arrive at a fair distribution then the issue of Schengen will arise – we do not want that,”

In other words, Merkel is for Schengen and free movement, not against it. 

But the UK press ran the following headlines:

‘EU may bring back border controls, Angela Merkel suggests’Telegraph

‘Europe’s free borders may have to close, warns Merkel’ – Times 

‘Merkel hints at bringing back border checks’Daily Mail (print)

‘Europe breaking up? EU could scrap free movement in wake of migrant crisis’ – Daily Express

‘ ‘Borders Return’ to halt migrant flow ‘ – The Sun (print)

While the stories in the serious papers made clear Merkel’s actual position, the headlines are a strange choice. The Guardian, for example, ran: ‘Germany urges other EU countries to take in more refugees‘.

For the less serious papers, giving the wrong impression is less strange.

Worst of all was the Mail, which in its editorial said:

“Yesterday, even Germany’s Angela Merkel, high priestess of closer union, signalled her despair over Schengen.”

This is slippery work. Merkel ‘signalled despair’ alright, but over the threat to Schengen, and much else besides.

And in the Mail’s story itself it leaves out the words ‘we do not want that’ from the quote above. In combination it’s clear the paperis intention is to misrepresent Merkel’s view.

The whole focus of these stories betrays a political bias. Instead of covering what is actually happening in Germany with regard to migration, these newspapers have jumped on one comment and inflated it to feed their campaign against the European project.

This is hardly journalism.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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