Merkel Channels Varoufakis: “No Plan B,” in This Case, on Migrants

It’s eerie, and perhaps a subconscious admission, to hear Angela Merel, Europe’s most powerful leader, repeat an expression integral to the spectacular backfire of Greece’s bailout negotiations last year. From the Financial Times:

German chancellor Angela Merkel said she had no “Plan B” for solving the refugee crisis, and insisted there was nothing that would make her change course — despite growing popular anger in Germany at her government’s handling of the issue.

Speaking on a talkshow on Germany’s ARD TV channel, Ms Merkel said she could “understand” a recent poll which showed 81 per cent believed her government had lost control of the migrant crisis. But she rejected the proposal backed by many in Germany to introduce an upper limit on migration. There was no point, she said, in making a promise she couldn’t keep.

“I have no plan B,” she said. “There’s no sense in working on two [plans] at the same time.”

In the case of Greece, the “no Plan B” was Greece’s posture that it would not leave the Eurozone. Even now, it’s not clear how Syriza arrived at that position, which we think was substantively correct but was probably unwise to announce, since it amounted to throwing away a bargaining chip. Syriza had campaigned on getting relief from austerity while staying in the Eurozone, and polls (until very recently) have shown majorities in favor of staying with the common currency. So Syriza may have felt its hands were tied. Moreover, Varoufakis himself had argued, forcefully, in 2012 that it would be disastrous for Greece to leave the Eurozone and analogies to Argentina’s ending its dollar currency peg were misguided. It does not appear that anyone took a serious look at the issues that we believe make it impossible to go back to a separate currency absent years of preparation, which are the banking information technology issues, which entails the cooperation of a horde of parties outside the Greek government’s control, as well as a daunting task at the individual bank level.

Now it turns out that Varoufakis and a small team did look a bit at the “leave the Eurozone” option, but it was so late in the game and cursory as to be tantamount to “no Plan B.”

Having said all of that, the Greek side badly overestimated its bargaining power, and its intransigence in the negotiations led to increased anger on the creditor side, with even its initial ally, France, becoming alienated. The result was a more punitive deal than was on offer when Syriza took power.

So with this sorry history, one wonders how Merkel revealingly used the same expression for her embattled position. Is her subconscious telling her that she will wind up suffering a similar catastrophic loss?

Merkel is at risk of being undone by political rigidities and prejudices….the same factors that did in Greece’s bid for economic relief. Varoufakis and James Galbraith had a creative plan, The Modest Proposal, that in theory would have gone a long way to rescuing the Eurozone project. One of its key mechanisms was providing for large-scale transfers to periphery countries by using the European Investment Bank to engage in infrastructure spending, with that financing coming from bond issues guaranteed by the ECB. Mind you, Germany had already nixed the idea of Eurobonds, and this looked too much like the same idea under a different name. But equally large obstacles were the supplicant Greece taking the position that it could reform Europe for its own benefit, the prejudices that the Germany government and media had stoked against Greece, and the creditor countries’ rigid adherence to the idea that debts must be repaid, even when it’s abundantly clear that they can’t and won’t be.

Here, Merkel is holding fast to what appears to be an uncharacteristic posture: holding out for what she deems to be good for Europe, when it may not be good for Germany. She has tried to take moves where she could claim both sets of interests, Europe’s and Germany’s,were being advanced. But on Eurozone banking and finance matters, it is clear that the currency union is being run as a Great German Co-Prosperity Sphere. We’ve discussed recent example of appalling short-sightedness: how Germany is refusing to move to a Eurozone-wide deposit insurance/bank resolution regime, and changes in the treatment of bank holding of sovereign debt which in combination with a half-baked sovereign insolvency mechanism, look like a prescription for bank runs and sovereign credit crises.

In other words, on the financial front, Germany is blatantly favoring its own interest in the management of the Eurozone, to the degree that it is casually implementing destructive policies that will blow back in a nasty way.

Could Merkel’s pr-immigrant policies actually be pro-Germany, as opposed to pro-EU, in a way that she is unable or finds it politically too risky to articulate? She appears to be reflexively supporting the Schengen system of open borders and free movement. Is her diehard support really about trade? Running big surpluses has become central to Germany’s economic model. Controlled borders would undermine that. To what degree is an open question.

But this observation in a column today by Wolfgang Munchau may be key to Merkel’s stance:

Member states have lost the will to find joint solutions for problems that they could solve at the level of the EU but not on their own. The EU’s population of more than 500m can easily absorb 1m refugees a year. No member state can do this alone, even Germany.

And unlike the ever-festering Eurozone banking/sovereign debt crisis, where the Eurocrats have become complacent about the underlying risk due to their success in keeping “kick the can down the road” going, Merkel likely sees thatBrexit risk is real, and beyond her power to finesse. Hence she is pushed into trying to find real solutions. Again from Munchau:

Refugees now find themselves trapped in Greece. Some may leave for Italy by boat. When those who survive the journey arrive there, I would expect Slovenia, Switzerland and France to close their borders. At that point, we should no longer assume that the European Council of heads of government is a functioning political body.

A refugee crisis that spins out of control could tilt the vote in the British referendum. There is no way the EU will be able to deal with two simultaneous shocks of such size. Coming at a time like this, Brexit has the potential to destroy the EU.

Munchau makes clear that he does not expect a worst-case outcome. But he also contends that Merkel has badly botched the situation by overplaying her hand. While Germany can get away with that against weak and desperate creditors, and has blinded itself to the dangers of toying casually with the Italian banking system, this is a front burner issue with citizens all across the Eurozone, and there’s no behind the scenes power like the ECB that can alleviate pressure. Munchau again:

Ms Merkel must take much of the blame. Her open-door policy was anti-European in that she unilaterally imposed it on her own country and on the rest of Europe. She consulted only Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann.

And as the original story makes clear, Merkel and Austria are now at loggerheads:

Austria has in recent days joined nine neighbouring states in imposing border controls, in a move that put in doubt the future of the Schengen passport-free travel zone and raised fears that tens of thousands of refugees will be bottled up in Greece. Athens recalled its ambassador to Vienna in protest at the move.

Ms Merkel criticised the Austrian action, saying Greece had been let down. “We didn’t keep Greece in the euro in order to leave it in the lurch like that,” she said. “That is not my Europe.”

Merkel is right that it is untenable to turn Greece into an open-air prison camp, which is what many European countries appear to think is a solution. Despite complaints about Greece’s failure to “control its borders,” pray tell how Greece is to do that. Build a wall around its very long coastline? And help promised by the EU for limiting entry has not been forthcoming.

But another unintended truth may loom in Merkel’s remarks. It may indeed not be her Europe for all that much longer. Like the less-seasoned Varoufakis, she may have alienated so many key parties that a deal that might have been possible is now beyond her reach.

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18 comments

  1. Swedish Lex

    In addition, Münchau also hints at the possibility of Sweden leaving the economically dysfunctional and illiterate EU, thereby leaving this hopeless band of xenophobes (barring Germany).

    Also, Mervyn King’s piece could have been written by Varoufakis: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/02/28/lord-mervyn-king-forgive-them-their-debts-is-not-the-answer/

    By the way, it was announced this morning that the Swedish economy grew by 4,5% in 2015, about 1% above estimates. Sweden grew more in the last quarter than France did over 12 months. Poor Finland, stuck with the euro, did not grow at all.

    Who could blame the Swedes for thinking “if we only can have access to the EU market, we would be better off on our own”?

    1. JustAnObserver

      Just to comment, for those new to NC or the whole Euro omnishambles, that Sweden is not a member of the Eurozone even though it is in the EU itself. The contrast in economic performance between Sweden and its Eurozone-member neighbor, Finland, gets starker by the day

  2. ewmayer

    Mish has been covering the migrant issue closely – in his latest missive on the subject, Austria and Nine Balkan Countries Effectively Tell Merkel Go to Hell he quotes a Die Welt article containing an interesting comment: “Merkel faces a paradox,” the influential journalist Alan Posener wrote in Die Welt. “It’s possible that the naysayers will restrict the influx of refugees to such an extent that the chancellor’s future in Germany will be saved.”

    On the other hand, the fact that Austria and the Balkan states in question pointedly excluded Germany from their talks indicates that Merkel’s “leader among leaders” authority within the EU – or at least the continental portion thereof – may be finished as a result of her mishandling of the refugee issue. First she supported the US in its inane and destructive “empire of chaos” adventures in the middle east which did much to cause the refugee exodus, then blithely assumed she could ram a “let’s invite them in by the millions” policy w.r.to the migrants down the throat of Germany’s neighbors, all against a backdrop of a growing existential political/financial crisis for the EU, the recent Paris terror attacks and New Year’s eve “festivities” in various major cities, and that flood of migrants having to pour through a relatively narrow geographic corridor which includes some of the EU members least in a position to be able to deal with the needed logistics, Greece and several of the Balkan states. That may well prove to have been a fatal 1-2 self-punch-to-the-face as far as her influence over her EU neighbors is concerned.

    Anyway, it seems pretty clear that Schengen is dead, and the real question is how long it will be before the EU project itself follows it.

  3. visitor

    I have seen the following statement repeated so many times for the past year, which I think it is incorrect:

    Merkel’s pro-immigrant policies

    Neither Merkel, nor Germany has a “pro-immigration” attitude; rather, their policy for the past decades has consistently been one of offloading as much as possible, ideally entirely, the hassle and costs of handling immigration and refugees, and of securing EU borders to peripheral countries. It is a policy whose benefits were shared with other countries at the heart of the EU (Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, etc).

    a) Schengen: Germany benefits from the free movement area, and basically only has to control its airports. Countries on the periphery jutting non-Schengen areas (such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria) have all the costs and burden of verifying entries via land, sea, and air.

    b) Dublin: Countries on the periphery have the burden and cost of fishing out refugees from the sea, registering them, housing them. In principle, those refugees must remain in the first country of EU entry — typically Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria — and ask for asylum there.

    c) NATO: guess who is spending 1.5% to 2.7% of its GDP on defense? Countries like Bulgaria, Poland, Greece, Lithuania. Who is spending 0.5% to 1.2%? Luxembourg, Austria, Germany. Germany spends so little that the dilapidated state of its military causes scandal (e.g. regarding the pitiful state of its air force).

    In other words, Germany, cosily ensconced in the middle of the EU, and advantaged by the all-powerful EU treaties and rules, enjoys the benefits of secure borders and free movement of persons while poorer countries have almost all the hassle and expenses. The way Germany attempts to structure those bank resolution and deposit insurance mechanisms fits in the picture — and in the concept of what you call a “co-prosperity sphere”.

    Further notice that:

    1) The current migration crisis is the third one in about 15 years. The first one took place in Spain; the second in Italy. In both cases, Germany &co help to stem or manage the flow was kept to the absolute minimum. The best known example is the replacement of the Italian operation “mare nostrum” by the EU-wide Frontex “triton” operation — which provided even less resources and patrolled an even smaller area than the Italy navy alone did. As for Spain, it had to secure its borders (on Morocco, Canary Islands, Spain) and pay on its own countries like Mauritania to prevent emigration.

    2) All initiatives undertaken by Germany in the past year tended to one goal: offload the crisis to other countries as much as possible (ideally entirely). Hence, the distribution of refugees across the EU; paying Turkey to prevent refugees from crossing to the EU; enticing African countries to keep migrants and refugees on their territory (the infamous La Valletta meeting in 2015); and now installing hot-spots in Italy and Greece.

    You rightly identified two major reasons why Merkel is frantically trying to uphold the current Schengen arrangement: the destabilization induced by a Brexit; and the need to keep trade flowing smoothly — which is the economic pillar of Germany (e.g. importing semi-finished goods from Poland or Slovakia, exporting finished goods from Germany). But there are more.

    For one, cross-border workers from France or Poland are important (Luxembourg also relies heavily on cross-border workers). Second, the EU is involved in hard negotiations with Switzerland, which is intent on setting up a legal mechanism to control immigration (and hence end the free movement of persons that it agreed with the EU because of bilateral treaties and Schengen). The justification of such control schemes becomes more obvious as the crisis goes on, and this might result in other EU countries wanting to do the same. By the way, who are those persons who have been migrating in droves to Switzerland for the past decade? Germans.

    So there are indeed plenty of reasons why Merkel sounds desperate, especially as she sees other countries with which Germany shared the advantages of the former arrangement and few of the drawbacks withdrawing from it (Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark).

    There have been discussions about the German obsession for abiding to “rules” during the Greek debt drama last year. This also works in the present case: Germany is bound by a web of international conventions (1951, 1967), EU rules (Schengen, Dublin) and its own national laws on how to handle refugees, and cannot just throw them to the wind. An attempt in the Autumn was made to grant only “subsidiary protection” instead of “refugee status” to the waves of Syrians coming to Germany. It would have enabled Germany to send them back as soon the war abated — but German courts promptly invalidated the move.

    Merkel is in a bind. She wished Germany could return to the comfortable situation it enjoyed previously somehow — but other countries are obstructing. She knows that Germany as a lot to lose if a proper solution is not found. She admits that Germany will have to share more of the burden and costs of refugees. She cannot violate the existing legal framework without precipitating a general pandemonium in the EU. The problem is that many in Germany still do not want to pay for such a global solution, and other countries no longer want to pay to help Germany, which did not really help them earlier.

    I hope this comment gives a different slant to the refugee crisis in Europe, and dispels a bit the myth of an imprudently generous Merkel.

    1. pattso

      It’s always important to distinguish between the intentions and the reality. True, the Dublin System is designed to put the burden on the peripheral countries but it never worked this way.

      a) Schengen: “have all the costs and burden of verifying entries via land, sea, and air.”

      Yes, they have this burden but the costs are peanuts in comparison to the costs of operating a proper asylum system. Something Italy never did. Despite Schengen it is and always has been Central Europe wich took in the most asylum seekers per capita and not Italy or Greece.
      In 2014 around 160.000 boat people arrived in Italy but just around 60.000 applied for asylum in Italy. Just check the asylum stats from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France…if you want to know where the others ended up. Furthermore there is EURNAVFOR operating in the med. The day of “Mare Nostrum” (where Italy was operating on it’s own) are history.
      -> EUROSTAT

      b. Dublin: Again, in principle but it never happened. Dublin is dysfunctional since years but nobody cared enough to really dig into. In August the German BAMF reported ~10.000 open cases of asylum seekers registered in Italy but now applying for asylum in Germany. Returns to Greece are not happening since 2012. The Austrian police reported that around 50.000 asylum seekers crossed the Brennero in 2015. There is a reason why Rome is getting such nervous since Vienna is considering a border regime at the Brennero.

      c. NATO: You mentioned an interesting point. Warsaw and Tusk made it very clear what they expect from Berlin. They want NATO-troops in Eastern Europa and they oppose Nord Stream II. Just google “Berlin speech Tusk”.

      “The best known example is the replacement of the Italian operation “mare nostrum” by the EU-wide Frontex “triton” operation — which provided even less resources and patrolled an even smaller area than the Italy navy alone did. As for Spain, it had to secure its borders (on Morocco, Canary Islands, Spain) and pay on its own countries like Mauritania to prevent emigration.”

      1. True but that wasn’T about the costs. It was about canceling a search & rescue mission wich the most European countries opposed. Mare nostrum rescued around 110.000 people. It became in fact a ferry service to Italy. It wasn’t only Germany opposing this approach. The UK was one of the fiercest opponents of such an approach. As was France.
      2. Spain: Well, the EU co-financed the Spanish solution with quite some money.

      “2) All initiatives undertaken by Germany in the past year tended to one goal: offload the crisis to other countries as much as possible (ideally entirely). “

      Actually Merkel isn’t turning Greece and Italy into Europe’s refugee processing center. She turned Central Europe into Europe’s asylum processing center. Sweden, Germany and Austria became the hotspots and not Greece or Italy.
      From my point of view it was the only viable option back in September 2015 because there are simply no structures in place in Italy, Greece or the Western Balkans. There isn’t a working asylum system in Greece and there never has been one (just read the EU report about the asylum law from autumn 2015). The alternative would have been to deploy the army/UNHCR to build up camps Jordan Style in Greece and the Western Balkans.

      It is interesting to mention what else happened in Europe during the last months.
      The Brits are constantly talking about Brexit. Rome is constantly talking about Euro Bonds, this time to finance the refugee crisis. And about a banking union designed the way Rome would prefer. Poland is talking about NATO troops in Eastern Europa all the time. Paris is talking about a defense union and military interventions.

      Europe is a bazaar and it always has been a bazaar.

  4. uncle tungsten

    Merkel has taken the cowards option by squeezing Greece (again) and failing to confront Turkey. After delivering the millions of euros as part of the EU bargain with Turkey to halt the flow of refugees she now realizes that Erdogan the Turkish President has suckered her. The Syrians keep coming.

    Meanwhile Turkey has commenced its latest Holocaust exactly a century after its Armenian Holocaust. Today Turkey has clearly embarked on ethnic cleansing the Kurds from what was once Armenian land.

    I guess this is Turkeys way of resettling the Turkomans and sunni allied refugees from Syria now that it has lost its evil strategy to smash the non-sunni peoples of Syria. The Turkish Government is an evil gang of manipulators and it has only just begun.

  5. DanB

    Recall that Tim Geithner had no plan B either, proclaiming he knew his plan would work. In reference to Frau Dr. Merkel, I assume she is not allowed to have a plan B by the elite she serves. The same neoliberal TINA rules applied to Geithner -and Obama & co.

    1. tegnost

      The comparative advantage brought on by forced migration is too delicious for banksters to refuse a heaping helping…german unions, we’ll miss you well

  6. Felix_47

    Some Germans are making a killing buying run down apartment buildings and renting to the Asylanten. I know some of them in my area. The government is paying 90 dollars per night per head and paying for all cleanup and repairs. The Asylanten have their challenges dealing with western plumbing but everything, clean up etc. gets billed to the government. The working class in Germany is getting crushed just like in the US. Most people I know think the whole thing is orchestrated from Washington anyway. There might be some truth to it. We made the mess in the mid east and we don’t want millions of Afghans, Iraqis and other Muslims in the US so why not dump them in Germany, our colony since WW1. No one wants to live unemployed with no prospects in Afghanistan except the poppy growers and the Taliban. Selling polygamy in the US and putting them on welfare is a tougher sell in the US than in Germany. If HRC pushed that it would be political suicide and we can be sure that Germany will get eight more years…….and in eight years Germany will be a different country…..way different.

  7. Tsigantes

    Merkel is looking forward to retirement and her pay-off after 10 years in the hot seat. Washington has asked her to promote migration and so she does. My opinion of course.

    A small correction Yves: Varoufakis and Stuart Holland wrote the Modest Proposal and all its updates. Galbraith endorses it, but much later.

  8. susan the other

    Merkel’s ongoing attempts to reduce the flow of immigrants is sort of a plan B. She has cajoled Turkey to step up its effort to contain the refugees in Turkey if Germany pays for it. It’s not really working tho’ – maybe because Turkey is so entangled in Syria it too is ready to explode. The xenophobic backlash across Europe is amazing – but it shouldn’t be. Europe has always had a supremacist complex. Maybe Merkel should work on that.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      You are right about Europe, but selling people on refugees created by unpopular policies in the midst of their own austerity is doomed to failure. Is Merkel putting up any of the refugees? No. Is Obama or the U.S.? We took in less Iraqi refugees than Norway. Growth was the only reason Eastern European immigration was tolerated.

      Europe won’t welcome Ukrainian refugees. Without international support, Kiev will fold up. Fears of Polish plumbers will be remembered as the good Ole days with a collapsed state on the border full of people who expected to be embraced by Europe.

  9. kevinearick

    the nation/states have no exit…

    Human Nature; Weapon or Tool

    Sociopathic behavior, the body telling the brain to simulate intelligence with mirrors, is a failure to adapt, triggering genetic meltdown and devolution over time, with the resulting empire grounding perception instead of nature. Some get it the first time, most don’t, and we have newcomers streaming in and out all the time. Personification of a social attribute is counterproductive.

    The mythology of America, like its predecessors, is collapsing as the debt replacing natural resources accelerates. The Millennials see nothing but debt slavery remaining so they aren’t playing the debtmoney for RE control compliance game, denying the system the children it needs to feed the actuarial ponzi, creating a gap in empire continuation and wiping out the dependent older middle class. The Millennials can have children long after the sociopaths are dead and gone, or not, and a global economy so-divided can only collapse.

    Playing last-man-standing among global cities with dictatorial natural resource control, Moscow actually has the best cards, for the time being, absent quantum technology advance, which gets rolled out after the dead infrastructure has been flattened by war, over artificially scarce resources. Artificial Intelligence is dynamic machine architecture, building and programming itself by adding and deleting sensory-motor apparatus, to replace the monkey-see-monkey-do counterweight. Putin isn’t concerned about a toy factory like Google, nothing personal.

    Because it is the prototype for Western development, the Bay Area is Ground Zero being defended at all cost with the reserve currency, and like China, its manufacturing hub, is building DOA zombie infrastructure with RE inflation as a reward for conditioned compliance – more debt, less natural resources, and more people standing in the street looking at empty units, warehousing RE inflation chasing its own tail.

    If you want to see the latest toys advertised on Facebook, order them from Amazon with an I-phone, and watch Netflix, well satisfied with the outcome, as watched and confirmed by Google, paid for with margin debt issued by the Fed, that’s your business, but it’s not mine. If I want an expert opinion, I’ll walk out to the street corner. But don’t expect me to slow down.

    The difference between relatively open and closed systems is that closed systems are a one-way trip to the DNA churn pool, the one with the most toys wins, which is the popularized choice. As the closed system becomes increasingly desperate, the penalties for noncompliance grow, in number and severity. Net, adaptive genes are distilled forward.

    Human DNA exists in a relationship with the environment at the edge of complexity, with genetic mutational meltdown as the default drive. Empire offers technology as an insulative bubble, promising the illusion of separation. For those who accept the contract, meltdown begins and the empire offers treatments at increasing cost to the addicted, until it all blows up, when participation becomes mandatory.

    Regardless of nation/state, legacy RE control feeds upon artificial demographic variability in both directions, with technology designed for the purpose, pulling middle class demand forward with an actuarial inflation ponzi, and taking everything back upon the inevitable collapse, basically renting oxygen. If there was a real market for RE, the price of housing would approach free because we are that overstocked. Instead, institutions and compliant individuals are being paid in other people’s debt to sit on them, until they can’t, or WWIII breaks out, to protect the bubble.

    From the perspective of nature, Planned Parenthood is ridiculous, whether it’s the government of China telling grandparents how to parent, or the government in America following suit, just to sell bonds in an actuarial ponzi one more day, to extract what remains of humanity from humanity. The perfect day and the perfect circumstances to have children is never going to come. And even if it did, government by consensus led by simulated intelligence would be the last to know.

    One thing you may find helpful is that those synapses dynamically allocate the architecture itself, so nothing the empire is designing will integrate in the forward direction. And at some point, that dc has to be transformed into a live ac signal, which is why that double-sided mirror and you exist. The average synaptic distance is not the distance of all gaps, any more than you are a reflection of the average human being or the average lab rat.

    Given a choice between alpha and beta, choose gamma, twice per cycle. Given a dc signal from the preamp and an impact signal from the power amp, AAAA, what is the resulting signal? What is a defibrillator?

  10. Zig Zag Twong

    Tony Blair is accused of “presiding over a silent conspiracy” that allowed two million migrants to enter Britain during his decade in power.

    A new biography of the former prime minister by the celebrated investigative journalist Tom Bower claims Mr Blair ordered his Labour government not to publicly discuss the issue.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/12175813/Tony-Blair-accused-of-conspiracy-over-mass-immigration.html

    and Slavoj Žižek on the refugee crisis:

    “The flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East into Western Europe has provoked a set of reactions strikingly similar to those we display on learning we have a terminal illness, according to the schema described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her classic study On Death and Dying. First there is denial: ‘It’s not so serious, let’s just ignore it’ (we don’t hear much of this any longer). Then there is anger – how can this happen to me? – which explodes when denial is no longer plausible: ‘Refugees are a threat to our way of life; Muslim fundamentalists are hiding among them; they have to be stopped!’ There is bargaining: ‘OK, let’s decide on quotas; let them have refugee camps in their own countries.’ There is depression: ‘We are lost, Europe is turning into Europastan!’ What we haven’t yet seen is Kübler-Ross’s fifth stage, acceptance, which in this case would involve the drawing up of an all-European plan to deal with the refugees.

    “What should be done? Public opinion is sharply divided. Left liberals express their outrage that Europe is allowing thousands to drown in the Mediterranean: Europe, they say, should show solidarity and throw open its doors. Anti-immigrant populists say we need to protect our way of life: foreigners should solve their own problems. Both solutions sound bad, but which is worse? To paraphrase Stalin, they are both worse. The greatest hypocrites are those who call for open borders. They know very well this will never happen: it would instantly trigger a populist revolt in Europe. They play the beautiful soul, superior to the corrupted world while continuing to get along in it.”

    from “The Non-Existence of Norway”, Slavoj Žižek, in the London Review of Books

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