Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has for the first time said that she backs her party's proposals for a partial ban on burqas. Speaking at her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party's congress in Essen, Merkel said the full facial veil was "not appropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible."
Merkel had spoken out against the burqa in the past, saying that in her view, "a fully covered woman has little chance of integrating in Germany." However, this is the first time she has backed an outright ban, after having previously suggested that such plans could face legal challenges and would seem excessive.
Earlier this year, Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (also of the CDU) tabled a package of measures that included a partial burqa ban in some public places, such as courts, and for those working in public services. Full facial veils, including burqas and niqabs, are already banned in some places, including in schools.
Although the CDU was already expected to debate and adopt a motion to partially ban the burqa this week, it is the first time that Merkel has directly associated herself with the proposal.
Merkel's speech on Tuesday is likely to be seen as an example of the difficult balancing act she faces ahead of next year's elections. On the one hand, she is speaking to liberal values, openness, and globalization against the rising tide of a populist right-wing party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), while at the same time she has to address the concerns of a socially conservative base that is nervous about the high number of refugees in the country.
Merkel, who is running for a fourth term as chancellor, has said next year's election campaign will be “the most difficult” since German reunification in 1990.