Friedrich Merz caused quite a stir with his description of Ukrainian refugees as social tourists. Politicians from the SPD, FDP, Greens and even from the Union itself criticized the statements made by the party and parliamentary group leader of the CDU. Merz said in an interview on Monday evening: "We are now experiencing social tourism from these refugees: to Germany, back to Ukraine, to Germany, back to Ukraine." In his opinion, the background to this is that Ukraine refugees have received basic security since June, i.e. the same benefits as, for example, Hartz IV recipients, and are therefore somewhat better off than asylum seekers.
A jury of linguists named the term "social tourism" the "nonsense word of the year" in 2013. At the time, the reason given was that he "discriminates against people who are looking for a better future in Germany out of sheer necessity, and conceals their basic right to do so".
On Tuesday, Merz regretted his choice of words as "an inaccurate description of a problem that can be observed in individual cases", but also explained that he used the term consciously: "Well, that didn't slip out. That's a formulation that I found so appealing in the free interview actually slipped his lips," he said, emphasizing that he only wanted to point out the increasing problems with the accommodation and care of refugees. The CDU chairman denied that his statements two weeks before the state elections in Lower Saxony were campaign maneuvers.
"Schwäbische Zeitung" (Ravensburg): "Friedrich Merz probably had better things to do in 2013 than worrying about words and non-words of the year. Otherwise he would have noticed with certainty that the term 'social tourism', related to war refugees, was problematic "Anyone who remembers the CDU chairman's visit to the destroyed Ukrainian city of Irpin is somewhat stunned by his statements. Even his subsequent apology doesn't make him look any better. Now it's not the case that grievances, even if it's about War refugees should not be named. But with his choice of words, Merz has put hundreds of thousands of people under general suspicion. Merz has done his party a disservice. The CDU is struggling to draw a new, more modern image of itself - and the boss is meanwhile picking it up a word that fell through years ago. That seems to agree with all those who have doubts as to whether Merz is really that progressive i st as he would have us believe."
"Südwest-Presse" (Ulm): "A typical Merz, once again. After the CDU leader spoke of 'social tourism' with reference to Ukrainian war refugees in Germany, there was great indignation - rightly so. The old populist suspicion is back, and Merz alone is to blame for that. The accusation that it is obviously not really serious about unrestricted solidarity with Ukraine will not be rid of the entire Union any time soon."
"OM-Medien" (Vechta/Cloppenburg): "It's not a commonly used term. That's why it doesn't just accidentally slip over your lips. Especially not a top politician who claims to take over government business Merz already failed to provide evidence for his statement during the interview. The outrage that followed was great. Merz rowed back. Headline made. It seems like calculation. Such a style of politics is actually only known from another party, apart from the parliamentary center. And it is also the very same party that uses cynical word creations - downright nonsense - for sensationalism. You should be able to expect more from a CDU chairman."
"Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung": "With a half-hearted sorry with reservations, Merz does not make us forget his gaffe. A few days before the election in Lower Saxony he is rummaging in the bottom drawer of populism. If his strategy of halving the AfD looks like this, the republic can well do without it. If there is a problem with social abuse by Ukrainians, the CDU should present facts and figures and make suggestions on what to do about it. However, Merz defames and discredits the refugees at a time when the situation in their homeland is changing exacerbated by the Russian mock referendums."
"Westfälische Nachrichten" (Münster): "What does 'social tourism' mean here? Anyone who has ever spoken to refugee mothers knows their heartbreaking considerations: Should they dare to travel to the Ukraine so that children can see their fathers who are fighting there? Or should they Do you prefer to stay in a safe country? The key word holiday for the state of emergency between insomnia, strokes of fate and helplessness is an incomprehensible defamation. Germany has deliberately decided to grant the Ukraine refugees special rights and basic security. They should continue to focus on one thing count: our solidarity."
"Straubinger Tagblatt/Landshuter Zeitung": "Anyone who prides himself on his alleged rhetorical skills as much as the Sauerlander does should not be surprised if he is judged by his words. And a populist steamy chatterer as chancellor is certainly not what the citizens wish for in times of crisis."
"Reutlinger General-Anzeiger": "Merz has done the CDU a disservice. The talk of 'social tourism' by Ukrainian war refugees will cost his party votes from conservative and swing voters. Two weeks before the state elections in Lower Saxony, the slip comes at an inopportune time. But the votes who fear that the German welfare state will have a pull effect. The problem is well known: in a European comparison, Germany pays well and is therefore particularly popular with migrants. That is not a criticism of the individual immigrants. But if many people decide so, it overwhelms them Host society. It has to be talked about. But in a matter-of-fact tone, without populist buzzwords."
"Pforzheimer Zeitung": It is quite possible that Merz simply wanted to polarize with his statement. And two weeks before the state elections in Lower Saxony maybe also fish a little on the right side. That's shoddy - and instinctive. This is shown by the storm of indignation that justifiably broke out over Merz and that he apparently did not expect. Since his election as party leader, the Sauerland has visibly tried to correct his earlier image as a brawler and to present himself as a statesman. Actually with success so far. This picture has now gotten huge cracks. And shown: the populist still slumbers in Friedrich Merz. Pity."
"Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung": Merz wants to make the CDU the leading people's party of the center again, but has not yet found its own center. That's not enough for someone who dares to lead the whole country if the worst comes to the worst. If Merz sees himself as the future chancellor, he still has to make significant gains in terms of substance and consistency."
"Stuttgarter Zeitung": "In the matter, Merz pointed to a control deficit that actually exists: Nobody knows how many of the war refugees registered in Germany have already returned. Whether this is 'social tourism' is another question. These people are driven by Putin's brutal violence. Who can blame them if they return home, maybe to get documents or look after relatives? How far we should support this with social assistance still needs to be clarified."
"Badische Latest News (Karlsruhe): "Merz's saying about 'social tourism' of Ukrainian refugees was extremely tasteless. (...) Nevertheless, Merz's crude remark - the effect of which he allegedly regrets - has a serious background. And this society urgently needs to discuss this. It may be well-intentioned that Ukrainian war refugees receive more money than asylum seekers, but this humane gesture raises serious problems. It creates a great incentive to leave emergency shelters in Poland and other helpful countries and move on to Germany - full of false hopes. For weeks, mayors have been calling for help and warning that the mood of the population is changing in view of the housing shortage. (...) Berlin cannot simply overlook the frustration of these people. (...) Some Ukrainians will be sought-after workers in Germany tomorrow, for sure. Nevertheless, the government must regulate the rush of those seeking help more intelligently."
"Münchner Merkur": "Merz made a gross blunder – below his level, and not in line with his hitherto consistent Ukraine line. It's doubly annoying, because it paralyzes another debate that should actually be conducted carefully. The labor market - and the social policy of the traffic light government actually accepts false incentives, not only, but also for migrants. Rejected asylum seekers should also receive benefits far above the refugee aid, at the same time the traffic light deletes sanction options for those unwilling to work in trusting stupidity. That doesn't fit. Instead of over talking, everything is raging about Merz. That doesn't get us any further."
"Frankenpost" (Hof): The CDU boss quickly apologized; In an already heated debate, he accused people who had fled Ukraine of 'social tourism'. He shouldn't have uttered the nonsense of 2013, which at the time referred to other refugees. But, he addresses a change of mood in the German population that has long since begun. At first, the war refugees, especially the many women and children, were welcomed with open arms. In the meantime, the uneasiness is growing with one's own inflation and existential worries: Can we do it?"