WITTLICH, Germany (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Wednesday for Germany to play a bigger role in world affairs, resisting domestic pressure for the country to turn in on itself in the face of the migrant crisis.
Campaigning for her Christian Democrats (CDU) ahead of three state elections on March 13 that will serve as a litmus test of her migrant policies, Merkel said it would no longer suffice for Germany to export goods to the rest of the world.
“Rather, we will have to take on more responsibility in an open world for what happens outside our European borders,” she told a rally in Wittlich in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the three states gearing up for elections.
“That means more development aid, that means more common standards on climate protection, that means fair trade and a lot more than one perhaps feels in a closed society,” she added.
Merkel’s call for a more engaged Germany shows the country’s growing confidence on the world stage as it steps out of the shadows of its Nazi past, but also runs counter to domestic pressure to take a more national approach to the migrant crisis.
Merkel is scrambling to secure a Europe-wide plan to address the crisis, which saw over 1 million migrants enter Germany last year. But many voters are losing faith in her ability to make the plan work and want Germany to close its borders instead.
Keeping up the pressure on Merkel is Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), her conservatives’ sister party in Bavaria, which is the point of entry into Germany for most migrants.
Seehofer and Merkel met other senior figures from their conservative alliance on Wednesday but remained at odds.
“If the international measures do not come in time or are not effective enough, we will not be able to avoid national measures,” Seehofer told a rally in Halle in eastern Germany.
Merkel’s conservatives are watching nervously as they lose ground to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), whose hardline stance on refugees could bring it big gains in all three states.
A poor showing by the Merkel’s CDU in the elections - in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west, and Saxony Anhalt in the east - would increase pressure on the chancellor to reverse her course, 1-1/2 years before the federal election, when she is likely to seek a fourth term.
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Alison Williams