German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited a French school in Berlin yesterday (3 May) and used the opportunity to announce her intention to support French parties against the National Front in the presidential election next year. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.
For Merkel, it was much-needed respite from questions regarding Horst Seehofer, the German-Austrian border and the difficulties caused by her Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán. Instead, pupils at the Französisches Gymnasium in Berlin asked for autographs and took selfies.
Merkel’s appearance at the school dates back to 2007, before the economic and refugee crises, when a German-led EU presidency came up with a project that would see politicians commit to visiting schoolchildren to talk about Europe and its values.
Her visit to the Berlin school is an example of Franco-German cooperation on education, and the chancellor wasted no time in asking the younger kids whether their French counterparts shared their taste in music.
When it came to a Q&A session with the older students, Merkel fielded questions about the refugee crisis and defended her so-called open-door policy, arguing that “it is not in line with European values” when EU countries pick and choose which refugees to take in, based simply on their religion.
The students also wanted to know what would happen if the French National Front continued to rise in popularity and perform well at next year’s presidential election. “I will try to add my own contribution, as far as one can from outside, so that other political forces are stronger than the National Front,” she answered.
This is perhaps a knock-on effect of problems closer to home, in which the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party continues to build momentum. Outside of the auditorium, she explained to waiting journalists that the AfD would have to be countered “without foaming at the mouth”. However, she also highlighted that there would be “no new strategy” in dealing with the party, which just released its new anti-Islam manifesto.