After being dealt a series of electoral blows due to her open-door refugee policy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, usually defiant, finally buckled a bit Monday in what the Financial Times described as “an extraordinary public expression of regret.”
The Berlin regional elections delivered her Christian Democrat party a historic defeat on Sunday and further cast her as out of touch with the continent’s rising populist and nationalist tides as she considers her political future. In the aftermath, she admitted to making mistakes in preparing for and responding to the refugee crisis that began unfolding in the summer of 2015.
She didn’t necessarily back down from her welcoming stance toward refugees, but she did say she’s failed to adequately communicate her refugee policy, acknowledging that her slogan meaning “We will manage” had provoked opponents of her political agenda. And she admitted that she and her government had not acted quickly enough to prepare for mass migration caused by conflict in the Middle East.
“If I could, I would rewind time by many, many years so that I could better prepare myself and the whole government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation that caught us unprepared in the late summer of 2015,” she said.
Merkel’s refugee has policy won her acclaim—at least in some parts of the U.S. President Barack Obama once referred to it as “courageous,” while his national security advisor Susan Rice said Merkel demonstrated “particularly bold moral and practical leadership on the refugee crisis, welcoming vulnerable migrants despite the political costs.” Based on Sunday’s election results, it seems those costs finally got too high.