Three weeks before Germany goes to the polls and the main contenders for the Chancellorship, Martin Schulz and Angela Merkel locked horns on Sunday night in a televised debate.
With Merkel enjoying a double-digit lead over her Social Democrat challenger, this was a chance for Shultz to make some headway and he went on the attack over Merkel’s handling of the migrant crisis.
“The mistake we made was not to involve our European neighbours before putting them on the front line as a “fait accompli”. It led to the situation that people like the Hungarian prime minister Orban or party leader Kaczinski in Poland could shirk their responsibilities and let us Germans down even though we pay a lot for these countries. That’s why a European solution is what we need for the migrant crisis”
Shulz also criticised Merkel for not taking a hard enough line over Turkey, saying he’d stop the country’s bid for EU membership. Merkel’s response was to don her diplomatic hat.
“I have never been in favour of Turkey joining the EU and I will consider carefully which way we will react – I am immediately in favour of cutting pre-joining development budgets. But will it be us who slams the door shut or Turkey…we will see. Above all I want to help the 12 or 14 people who are in prison for political reasons and I want to help them.”
At the end of ninety minutes and areas where Schulz had expected to shine – pensions NATO spending and education had barely been raised.
A poll at the end indicated Merkel had had made the better impression on viewers with 49 percent saying she had appeared more competent than Martin Schulz.