German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her commitment to refugees during a press conference held after her meeting with President Donald Trump, who has actively fought to keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S. He totally dodged the topic in his response.
“Immigration has to be worked on, but this has to be done by looking at refugees as well,” she said.
Helping countries in need is a priority, she added, and accepting refugees is “the right way of going about it and that’s obviously what we have an exchange of views about.”
Trump completely ignored Merkel’s comments, returning instead to a point he stressed previously: Trade needs to be reformed in order to be more favorable to U.S. interests.
“There are many plants and factories coming back to the United States,” he said. “We will have a different policy but it’s going to be a great policy for the United States [and] a great policy worldwide.”
Merkel has become a leading advocate for refugees in Europe, with Germany accepting over 1 million displaced people. In contrast, Trump signed two executive orders banning Syrian refugees and halting travel from several majority-Muslim countries.
Tensions between the two countries came to a head last year after then-GOP presidential nominee Trump referred to Syrian immigration to Germany as “a disaster” and claimed that it led to an increase in crime. Germany’s European affairs ministers denounced Trump’s comments as “fears, lies and half-truths.” German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel later referred to Trump as “the pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement.”
Merkel has also spoken out against Trump’s immigration executive orders.
“The chancellor regrets the U.S. government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries,” a spokesman for Merkel said in a statement in January. “She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.”
“Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views,” Merkel said in a statement shortly after Trump’s election victory. “I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”
Merkel is “really the opposite” of Trump, German Institute for International and Security Affairs Senior Fellow Susanne Dröge told NBC ahead of the meeting.