In Vis à vis, which is a program from RBB’s radio channel Inforadio, Angela Merkel was interviewed in September 2016. The recording seems to have been available on http://www.inforadio.de/programm/schema/sendungen/vis_a_vis/201609/37604.html, but the page is no longer online, because RBB is a public broadcaster and they are not allowed to keep it online for a long time. It’s also not availble in the Wayback Machine, because their bot is blocked by www.inforadio.de’s robots.txt file.
But the part relevant to this question was quoted by several German broadcaster/newspaper sites, including MDR¹, ZEIT ONLINE², and WELT³. The quotes from ZEIT ONLINE and WELT are word-for-word identical, the quote from MDR has some differences, but the meaning stays the same. Let’s take the quote as published by ZEIT ONLINE:
Wir haben neulich im Kabinett diskutiert, dass das Umschreiben einer syrischen Fahrerlaubnis in eine deutsche 500 Euro kostet. Und natürlich hat ein Flüchtling nicht sofort 500 Euro. Also hilft da vielleicht ein Darlehensprogramm. Wenn man dann verdient, kann man diese 500 Euro zurückzahlen, es werden überall Kraftfahrer gesucht.
Roughly translated, Merkel said:
- Recently we have discussed in the cabinet that it costs 500 € to re-register a Syrian driving license as a German driving license.
- A refugee doesn’t immediately have 500 €, of course.
- So perhaps a loan program could help here.
- When a refugee then earns money, the refugee can pay back the 500 €.
- Drivers are needed everywhere.
Reading about the current laws, I guess the 500 € are just an estimate.
A Syrian driving license seems to be valid for 6 months in Germany, after which it has to be re-registered. And for this, the driver has to pass the theoretical and practical driving tests, and provide several supporting documents. The re-registering itself only costs about 40 €, the two tests are the expensive parts.
(For a source, see for example the rules in Cologne (German).)
Problems with the Daily Express article
Based on the quote above, the Daily Express article Clueless Angela Merkel tried to TRAIN migrants as LORRY DRIVERS ahead of Berlin attack gets the following things wrong:
Their title says migrants, but Merkel talked about refugees. (However, in the body they use refugees.)
Clueless Angela Merkel tried to TRAIN migrants […]
They say Merkel’s plan is that refugees only have to pay 500 € for re-registering the driving license, but 500 € seems to be the current price, and Merkel talked about offering a loan program so that refugees could more easily pay these 500 €.
She said that the plan was to get a change in the rules to make it cheaper for them to apply for a licence, with the plan for them to pay just £420 (500€) […]
Probably stems from their mistranslation which contains "possibilities" (no idea where this is coming from):
Unveiling the plan she said: "[…] We have only recently discussed in the Cabinet the possibilities of allowing a Syrian driving licence to be converted to a German one for 500€.
They say Merkel "tried to force" unions, and later, that Merkel had put "massive pressure" on unions, but that can’t be read from the quote above. According to the linked articles, Merkel gave this particular case as an example about what they have discussed in the cabinet about what could be done to get refugees faster integrated in the labour market.
ANGELA MERKEL tried to force German trade unions […]
[…] it was revealed that Merkel had put massive pressure on unions to speed up the process […]
(The linked articles even say that Merkel said that business representatives complained to her about the administrative barriers to employ refugees, and she gave the driving license case as an example for such a barrier.)
They talk about lorry drivers, but Merkel said "Kraftfahrer", which, strictly speaking, means: a person that drives a motor vehicle. So it would also include passenger cars.
They talk about training lorry drivers, but that can’t be read from the quote above. Merkel just talked about re-registering the driving license. Training isn’t mentioned.
Clueless Angela Merkel tried to TRAIN migrants […]
[…] could be trained as lorry drivers […]
They talk about "unskilled refugees", but that can’t be read from the quote above. Skills aren’t mentioned.
[…] to speed up the process in which unskilled refugees could be trained as lorry drivers […]
Merkel didn’t do anything. She only said what they have talked about in the cabinet.
The broader topic was which barriers Germany could remove for faster integration of refugees in the labour market. Merkel gave the case with the Syrian driving license just as an example, to illustrate a possible barrier and a possible solution.
The possible solution (i.e., offering loans) for the example they talked about (i.e., refugees need a long time to save the required money for re-registering their driving license) wouldn’t allow something which would have been not allowed before, as:
- refugees could always re-register their driving licenses
- depending on the status of their applications for asylum, refugees could always work, whether as (lorry) drivers or as something else
If Merkel’s idea of offering a loan would be realized, the only thing that would change is that refugees don’t have to save money for the re-registering of their driving licenses.
NB: It might be the case that Merkel said more about this than what is quoted above, or that she said more about this somewhere else, but I couldn’t find anything that would suggest that.
¹ MDR: Angela Merkel im Exklusiv-Interview: "Protest ist die eine Sache, aber wir müssen Lösungen finden"
² ZEIT ONLINE: Flüchtlinge sollen schnell in Arbeitsmarkt integriert werden
³ WELT: "Kraftfahrer gesucht" – Merkel gibt Flüchtlingen Tipps