Thursday, May 5, 2016

Angela Merkel has warned that Europe risks a “return to nationalism” if it does not secure its external borders, as polls showed support for the far-Right is rising in Germany amid growing fears of Islam

“The future of Europe is at stake,” the German chancellor said in a passionate plea to preserve freedom of movement and the Schengen Agreement on border-free travel within the continent. Even as she spoke, a new poll shows that support for the far-Right Alternative for Germany(AfD) party is at its highest ever. “Europe stretches from the North Pole to the Mediterranean. We must defend the Schengen Treaty and the external borders, or we risk a return to nationalism,” Merkel said. She was speaking at a joint press conference in Rome with Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister. Both leaders spoke out against plans by Austria to close its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass, to prevent migrants entering. The AfD is riding high in the German polls on a wave of public discontent over the migrant crisis, and recorded its highest ever support less than a week after it adopted an anti-Muslim manifesto. It is now in third place on 15%, just five points behind Merkel’s main coalition partner, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who have slipped to 20%. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) remain in first place in the monthly ARD survey, with 33%. But, perhaps more worryingly for the German chancellor, a second poll found the AfD may be in step with voters with its overtly anti-Muslim stance. Only 22% of Germans believe that Islam belongs in their country, according to the poll for Bild newspaper by the Insa institute. An overwhelming 61% agreed that Islam does not belong in Germany — a central plank of the AfD’s new manifesto. The poll found attitudes had hardened considerably over the past year, which has seen over one million asylum-seekers enter Germany, the majority of them Muslim. A similar survey in Jaunary 2015 found that 37% believed Islam belonged in Germany, while 47% did not. An estimated 4 million Muslims live in Germany as citizens or permanent residents.

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