Berlin denies Merkel canceled Davos over Cologne

The German government has denied media reports suggesting that Chancellor Angela Merkel has canceled her trip next week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, due to political pressures at home.

On Sunday, the Financial Times ran a front page story with the headline "Merkel cancels Davos trip as pressure rises over handling of Cologne attacks," saying that the German Chancellor had canceled her regular trip to the World Economic Forum following the spate of sexual assaults on German women on New Year's Eve, allegedly carried out by men of Arab or North African origin.

However, the German government denied that she had canceled her trip to Davos as a result, saying she had no plans to attend the summit this year anyway.

"This year, Merkel never planned to go to Davos so no trip has been canceled," a German government spokesperson told CNBC on Monday. "The president (Joachim Gauck) will be there instead in her place."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel

It might be just as well that Merkel decided early on not to attend Davos this year, with pressing matters at home requiring attention. The German leader is facing increasing political pressure over her policy on migrants, particularly in the light of hundreds of reported sexual assaults on women in a number of German cities on New Year's Eve.

She has expressed outrage at the "disgusting attacks" and sexual assaults in Cologne and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

"Everything must be done to identify the perpetrators as rapidly and comprehensively as possible, and to punish them irrespective of their origin or background," she said on the German government's website.

On Saturday, Merkel went a step further, backing changes to the law to make it easier to expel anyone convicted of a crime.

Merkel has been one of the most liberal-minded politicians when it comes to dealing with the migrant crisis in Europe, effectively opening Germany's borders to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants in to the country 2015. Most of them were fleeing civil war and persecution in the Middle East, particularly Syria. It is estimated that around 1 million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015.

The sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Germany have threatened Merkel's migrant strategy, however, with questions being asked over the country's immigration controls and checks and, more widely, Germany's ability to integrate newcomers with diverse cultural backgrounds.

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