"Unword": Merz regrets "social tourism" accusation against Ukrainians

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has apologized for his accusation of "social tourism" by Ukraine refugees, but at the same time pointed out increasing problems with the accommodation of refugees.

"Unword": Merz regrets "social tourism" accusation against Ukrainians

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has apologized for his accusation of "social tourism" by Ukraine refugees, but at the same time pointed out increasing problems with the accommodation of refugees.

"I used this word social tourism, not with the intention of offending anyone or accusing anyone personally," said the Union faction leader on Tuesday before the regular meeting of the CDU and CSU MPs in the Bundestag in Berlin. "If I hurt someone there, I regret it very much," he added.

A jury of linguists chose the word "social tourism" as the "nonsense word of the year" in 2013. The reason given at the time was that it "discriminates against people who, out of sheer necessity, are looking for a better future in Germany and conceals their basic right to do so".

Merz said he just wanted to point out "that we are having increasing problems with the accommodation and care of refugees and are also having problems with the increasing number of asylum seekers". He stays with that. The problem is growing above all because "we have increasing numbers of asylum seekers". The number of 200,000 may be exceeded this year. "We have to talk about that. It's a topic that is also increasingly worrying the population in Germany."

Merz: Increasing problems with the accommodation of refugees

The CDU chairman rejected the fact that his statements two weeks before the state elections in Lower Saxony were an election campaign maneuver. When asked whether the word social tourism had slipped out of his mouth, he said: "Well, that didn't slip out. That's a formulation that actually came out of my mouth in the free interview." He saw the reactions and regrets this. Merz spoke of a misunderstanding. "I didn't mean it that way. And that says everything about it."

The 66-year-old had already tweeted in the morning: "If my choice of words is felt to be hurtful, then I apologize in all formalities." His reference was "solely to the lack of registration of the refugees".

Merz told Bild TV on Monday evening: "We are now experiencing social tourism from these refugees: to Germany, back to Ukraine, to Germany, back to Ukraine." The background according to Merz: Initially, Ukraine refugees were entitled to care under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act - since June they have received basic security, i.e. the same benefits as Hartz IV recipients, and are therefore somewhat better off.

SPD: Merz uses AfD tactics

The SPD accused Merz of using AfD tactics. "He deliberately wants to start a political culture war and shift the discourse to the right by constantly shifting borders," criticized parliamentary secretary Katja Mast. "So far we only know that from the AfD," she told the German Press Agency. The fact that Merz then "half-heartedly" distanced himself from his statements was "no more than the usual scam".

Greens: How do Merz's statements fit in with Ukraine solidarity?

Green Party leader Ricarda Lang tweeted: "How does it fit in with the Union's much-vaunted solidarity with Ukraine that Friedrich Merz speaks of "social tourism" in the context of people fleeing this terrible war of aggression?"

Green parliamentary group leader Britta Haßelmann called Merz's statement in Berlin "unhesitating and shabby". His subsequent explanation was "wobbly" and didn't make things any better.

FDP: Merz endangers social support for Ukraine

FDP faction leader Christian Dürr called Merz's accusation "absolutely out of place". He told the dpa: "With such narratives, Merz endangers social support for Ukraine."

The left-wing faction's migration expert, Clara Bünger, told the dpa: "Friedrich Merz has half-heartedly apologized for his choice of words," for his strategy "of wanting to fish for votes with inflammatory slogans on the right-wing edge, this apology is still pending."

Dobrindt: Done with an apology - not on gold scales

CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt said about Merz: "He corrected it and that's the end of it." He added: "Sometimes a sentence can be wrong. You don't have to put that on the gold scales." The parliamentary director of the Union faction in the Bundestag, Thorsten Frei (CDU), admitted that the term could be misunderstood.

The migration researcher Birgit Glorius classified the accusation of "social tourism" against Ukrainians as "absurd". Refugee movements are never one-dimensional, said the Chemnitz professor, who heads the scientific advisory board of the Federal Office for Migration, the dpa. Refugees still have many obligations in their country of origin, for example with regard to relatives. "Of course you drive back and forth if that's possible."

What do the statements mean for the state elections in Lower Saxony?

Two weeks before the important state elections in Lower Saxony, in which the CDU is also fighting for votes from SPD, Greens and FDP supporters, Merz' "social tourism" lawsuit is likely to cause frowns in the CDU. In the Union it was said that it was to be expected that the SPD and Greens would continue to use the statements in the election campaign. At the same time, there were voices that assumed that the waves could calm down quickly after Merz's apology.

With regard to Merz, it was heard in the Union that, in addition to the dispute with Chancellor Scholz, he must now also accept those with Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). Habeck is the biggest weakness in the traffic light government.

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