Merkel in Jeopardy: Germany’s European Hegemony, Refugees and Upcoming Elections

By Mathew D. Rose, a freelance journalist in Berlin

The inexorable political decline of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as her traditional opponents, the Social Democrats, is gathering pace. Upcoming elections in three German federal states on 13 March have given this process a considerable fillip. Both Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party and the Social Democrats are expecting some harrowing results.

It seems that each new crisis that Ms Merkel creates is more formidable than its predecessor. Her mishandling of the refugee question – nationally and internationally – is making her conflict with Greece last year appear like a festival of love and unity.

Ms Merkel’s unilateral decision to accept all refugees from war ravaged nations has galvanised most of the EU and other European nations against Germany’s hegemony. Ministers of the EU nations Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia met last week in Vienna with their colleagues from the Balkan countries of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia to discuss closing their borders to refugees, fearing that they too will suffer the fate of Greece and Italy, with tens of thousands of refugees stranded in their countries. These discussions were swiftly put into action, with Greece again bearing the brunt of Ms Merkel’s calamitous policy.

The refugee conflict is changing the political map of Europe. It has given the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) a political raison d’être. Viktor Orbán, once the shunned leader of Hungary due to his authoritarian regime, appears today more of a creditable leader in Europe than Merkel herself. Other EU nations are maybe less vociferous in their criticism of Ms Merkel, but are shunning her refugee policy and even closing their borders – even Scandinavian nations, which until recently was inconceivable. The destruction of the spirit of unity and solidarity in the EU, which Ms Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, have destroyed, has now permeated the policy of EU nations.

Although Ms Merkel tries to appear concerned about the newest developments in the refugee crisis, one has the feeling that the reduction in the flow of refugees arriving in Germany is timely – if not tacitly supported. In two weeks there are three state elections in Germany. One of these is in the state of Baden-Württemberg, considered the heartland of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. In the previous election, four years ago, the Christian Democrats were voted out of government for the first time since the war. This was a result of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, shortly after Ms Merkel’s government had passed legislation favourable to the nuclear lobby, a principle financier of her party. Although the Christian Democrats made a precipitate U-turn, the debacle was ineluctable. This time round it appears that the Greens could well receive more votes than the Christian Democrats, many of whom are defecting to the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD: neo-liberal, ultra-conservative and racist, including considering shooting entering immigrants at the border). Others Christian Democrats are voting for the Greens, who have simply co-opted most policies of the Christian Democrats, while being less corrupt – still. The situation for the Social-Democrats, who have been the Green’s coalition partner, is no less dramatic, being threatened with relegation to fourth place behind the AfD.

In the state of Rheinland-Pfalz Ms Merkel may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Her party that had a lead of up to 13 percent over the Social Democrats is currently scarcely ahead. Good news for the Social Democrats, but in the third state, Sachsen-Anhalt in the former GDR, the party is also struggling not to land in fourth place behind the AfD.

What might save the Christian Democrats are Hungarian President Viktor Orbán and his co-renitents, who have blocked the Balkan route used by refugees travelling from Greece to Germany. Ms Merkel has been critical of this policy, but she has not appeared terribly stern. They are providing her with a respite in the flow of refugees. Orbán was invited to visit the Christian Socialist Union’s (the CSU is the sister party of Ms Merkel’s CDU in the “Christian Union”) leader Horst Seehofer in Bavaria in September and Seehofer is on his way to meet with Orbán coming Friday. Add to this the cessation of criticism of Orbán in German state media, which prior to this portrayed him as equally dangerous for European democracy as Vladimir Putin, are a bellwether of the current political development.

For the Social Democrats under the leadership of Sigmar Gabriel, who seems more concerned with lining up some well remunerated jobs in advance of his retirement from politics, there is a bleak future. Like most social democratic parties in Europe, their motto seems to be “fill your pockets while you can”. Following the debacles of the social democrats in Spain and their compatriots in the Republic of Ireland, who appear to have gone into a death spin, the German social democrats seem to be following in their footsteps. The party will probably struggle to receive 20 percent of the vote at the next national election in a year’s time.

Domestically Ms Merkel’s party and the Social Democrats have tried to save themselves by changing the German laws regarding refugees. Nations that were until recently considered warzones or systematically violating human rights have been declared “safe countries of origin”, making refugees from these countries “economic migrants” to facilitate fast track extradition. Benefits for refugees are being slashed, as well not permitting refugees to bring their families to join them in Germany.

The situation became palpably absurd, as Ms Merkel declared that refugees have to integrate themselves in German society or leave, only then to declare that she expects them to depart as soon as the conflicts in their nations have terminated.

Ms Merkel’s real hope is purchasing the acquiescence of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stop all refugees at his own border, thus relocating the source of the current political conflict out of Europe and into Turkey. Erdoğan, who is fighting a war against the Kurds, would appreciate the billions of Euros on offer, as well as the EU members of NATO turning a blind eye to his pact with ISIS. Let us have no illusions: Erdoğan is an anti-democratic and authoritarian, with nor respect for human rights. He is on the threshold of becoming a dictator. He knows he has all the political trumps in his hand in negotiations with Ms Merkel and will exact a commensurate price. This is only the most recent juncture in a political disaster that spiralled out of control months ago.

Add to this the newly created mission of NATO using a fleet of warships to stop the flow of refugees from Turkey to Greece, while negotiations continue with Erdoğan. It is cynically claimed that the NATO force is there to arrest those smuggling the refugees. This is absurd. As everyone knows, the smugglers put the refugees in dilapidated boats and send them off on their own. They are not cruise operators. Thus the NATO ships are in effect sending back refugees, many of them women and children, to Turkey. Is this what NATO was created for? Where were the NATO ships, as thousands of refugees were drowning in the Mediterranean?

The whole affair, as with Greece before it, has become a disgrace for Europe. I doubt it would surprise anyone, should negotiations with Turkey fail, and Ms Merkel announced that her government was in talks with ISIS to assist in stemming the refugee threat to European Civilisation.

German leaders are infallible, so there is no way back for Ms Merkel, although there is not much backtracking left to do. The upcoming elections in Germany could well decide her political fate in Germany. The Christian Union would have to scramble to find a new leader for the upcoming national elections in 2017, although that is not really a problem. The party has enough mediocre politicians like Ms Merkel in the wings, just as capable of following the policy dictated by German and international business interests. Germany’s domestic political landscape is in flux, as in most of Europe, which makes any predictions concerning the future precarious.

As for Ms Merkel, she will have been a victim of endemic German hubris, not content with being the “Mutti” of Germany and the iron fist of Europe, but wanting to be a saint as well (and pocket the Nobel Peace Prize). Unfortunately – as always – others have paid and will pay the price: the thousands of refugees who will have died trying to reach the shelter of Europe, as well as those that make it, but will become victims of European racism and greed, and especially of the corrupt European political class. The great hope are the millions of decent Europeans, who know what solidarity is and value the Humanitarianism that was born here.

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29 comments

  1. No one in particular

    Well, to be read with more than a pinch of salt…. and I have too little time to depict it properly.

    1. Merkel has continued her lawless activity, started with the Greek bailout 1.0 (to save French banks, Sarkozy and German banks, in that order) with the refugee crisis. I do not know what her motives for opening the borders were, but not to close them in time was a fatal error;

    especially for the German democratic system, because there was neither the will nor the instruments to stop her. What a blow to the cherished “basic law”, exposed as an empty shell. A poisoned arrow, slowly permeating the state of Germany, questioning the functionality of the entire German democracy.

    2. Possibly a blessing in disguise, the unfolding refugee crisis (a mixture of war refugees and economic migration) has exposed “EU solidarity” or “Merkel leads Europe” for what it always was – the periphery needed (and needs) the German credit card to maintain the appearance of solvency – so they temporarily bowed to the inevitable, but out of selfish interest, not overarching interest in “solidarity”; which was a one-way street, always. So the lack of support for her should have been no surprise for anybody, but Berlin still manages to keep up the illusion. This was fatally complemented by the hubris not to inform anybody before the deed, thus giving all the uninformed union members of the feeling of second or third best…. not the best basis to ask for help.

    3. Unbeknownst to any non-German speaker, there is a “fifths” power emerging, something akin to a “speech police” – were any – and I mean any – criticism or resistance is labeled immediately as “geistige Brandstiftung” (roughly mental arson), and a stereotype for right wing Nazi idea’s. A lot of words are becoming unusable [emergency,unlawful and similar], unless you want to be labeled as “populist”, right wing or worse. Consequently, there is no unbiased discussion possible, anywhere, so a calamitous silence becomes ever more prevalent by the day. Note, that Facebook is now policed by the subsidiary of Bertelsmann, a big German publishing house, to remove “incitement” and similar posts.

    4. Slowly some parts of the German main stream press are waking up to the fallacies caused by the blanket invitation – the refugees coming are more or less unskilled, and thus quick integration into the German labor market is improbable, to say the least.

    5. However, the political establishment, i.e. the parties currently represented in parliament, have lost any connection to what the populace is thinking (quietly, as per 3.) and a mutiny is brewing even in normally patient and middle of the road guys; fueled by the wishful thinking of all will be well. And the muddling through will continue, unless some force outside of control of Berlin will stop it, thus exposing the inability of the “state” to keep a semblance of democracy and to govern within the framework of the “basic law”, as the parliament and the press both failed to stop Merkel.

    Honestly, I am not sure what to wish for, the continuation or the exposure of harsh reality.

    1. Damian

      “there is no unbiased discussion possible”

      Politically Correct is an intellectual Gulag ! everywhere

      same in the US of A — the politically correct speech game with Trump is now a badge of courage

      1. Keith

        Same here (UK)

        Though the politically correct stuff seems to have backed off a bit recently.

        Perhaps my comments about the PC Thought Police in the online Guardian did some good (wishful thinking).

        Also, comments on “PC Top Trumps” as homosexual and female rights clash with those of other religions.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      About your first point, Merkel has fancied herself as UN secretary general. She probably saw visions of murals of her leading down trodden women and children and “qualified” me being welcomed by a new, smiling Germany. In her vision, Merkel would be 8 feet tall wit a golden hue emerging from the far Kenedy lands of Southern Europe and beyond. The UN would have to take her.

      She is a Christian Democrat. She is mediocre by definition. I doubt she could ever conceive of her plans going wrong.

      1. OIFVet

        It really says something about her “leadership” when Bulgaria and Bulgarians are extending a heart-felt middle finger to Merkel’s Germany. After all, this is a country where all the tzars since liberation from the Ottomans were Germans…

        It does look as though the next UN GenSec will be a Bulgarian, Irina Bokova. Unlike Merkel she actually has brains.

    3. Gio Bruno

      See what happens when the U.S. seeks regime change? You get regime change—everywhere!

  2. PlutoniumKun

    This is one of the reasons I love NC so much – nice to see something in-depth and suitably sceptical about a country which despite its huge importance is rarely reported in real detail in the mainstream English language press. There is often much better reporting of China or Japan than Germany for some odd reason.

    I’ve noticed that Merkel gets an extraordinary easy ride in the English language press – even people from the left seem to have a sort of grudging admiration and even affection for her. In reality she has been a disaster for Germany and Europe. Her constant approach of taking the easy option has left Germany with a rotting infrastructure and has wrecked havoc in the European economy and European institutions. It seems that like so many who grew up behind the Iron Curtain her anti-communism has blinded her to the faults in European and Anglo-American conservatives – unlike her CD predecessors who were always much more pragmatic about power and its uses.

    1. jsn

      Agreed, very interesting!

      Does anyone know good english sources regarding Hungary and Orban? They seem to be under the same MSM cloud occluding realistic views of what’s happening in Russia. But its hard to tell because information is so thin. If its in the Times, WSJ or FT, it appears on its face to be propaganda simply from the personalization of the country into the leader.

    2. washunate

      a rotting infrastructure

      Which infrastructure, exactly, is rotting? I agree Germany isn’t some kind of luminary leftist paradise. But relative to us Anglo-Americans, things are working rather well there from the perspective of social and built landscape infrastructure.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Germany has maintained its relatively healthy public sector balance mainly through massive cuts in infrastructural spending. Its not immediately noticeable as a combination of low population growth and high levels of investment in the post war years has left it with a very good historic legacy. But only Spain has a lower level of public investment as a percentage of GDP as this FT article explains:

        http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/4fea7fa0-351c-11e4-a2c2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz41gGbFFof

        Its not just transport infrastructure – the power infrastructure is creaking too, with poor interconnectedness across the country. Housing and building stock is visibly deteriorating due to a lack of investment. Germany in many ways is operating like a company which has stopped investing in order to maximise short to medium term profits (think: Dell), which is in ironic counterpoint to its famously foresighted private companies. Germany can get away with this for a decade or more, but eventually the chickens will come home to roost in the form of huge bills as roads and railways will require major investments to make up for the neglect.

        The real problem is even worse than the total investment spend indicates. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, the German building industry is notoriously bad at controlling spending, so what they do spend is often wasted – the notorious Brandenburg Airport in Berlin being just one example.

        http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/5-billion-euros-costs-increase-again-for-berlin-brandenburg-airport-a-928989.html

        1. washunate

          GDP? I would say it’s a good thing Germany spends less on healthcare than we do, not a bad thing. I just don’t quite follow where you are going with this. Rotting, creaking, deteriorating, and comparisons to Dell strike me as sensationalizing the situation. With that kind of language, I want to see actual decrepit train stations right now, not a potential problem decades from now. How much capex exactly does Berlin Hauptbahnhof need over the next 5 years?

          It is much easier transiting Germany without a car than the US. Amtrak, for example, has two departures a day from NYC to Chicago (Lakeshore and Capitol), and it will take you 19-21 hours to get there. Deutsche Bahn has 9 departures from Berlin to Frankfurt, and that’s only counting morning trains with no train changes on the high speed lines. Or in speed terms, your total all in travel is a little over 80 MPH in Germany with trains leaving regularly and a little over 40 MPH in the US where if you miss your train you get to wait another half day.

          If Germany is rotting, what are the Americans doing?

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I’m not sure where you get the comment on healthcare from – I was referring entirely to physical infrastructure. And yes of course, German roads and railways are generally very good, but as that FT article points out, this is almost entirely a legacy of 20th Century investment. And German railways have fallen behind France, Spain and other countries in terms of speed and, most notably, capacity. The problem with not investing consistently in physical infrastructure is that you can get away with it for a while, but when your existing stock starts hitting the end of its 30 or 40 year design life, the bills to keep things going can be very high. A railway line can last pretty much forever if you are constantly working on it to improve and maintain it. Neglect it for a couple of decades and it will start to disintegrate and will need replacing in its entirety.

            I brought up Dell as a well known example of a company which suffered from milking an existing line of products without investing to compete as technology changes. Dell looked healthy and profitable for a long while… until eventually their failures caught up. I thought of them because just a few days ago I drove past the empty shell of what was their biggest manufacturing centre. There are plenty of other examples of course.

            1. washunate

              “Not as fast as le TGV” and “Dell level failure” strike me as radically different uses of language.

              FT is behind a paywall, so I don’t know the nuance of their argument, but this has a tone I have heard in other contexts. The Anglo-American world sowing doubt about the German system when we ourselves are worse on most of the metrics in question. This is especially true since one of the reasons – tax cuts in the name of groaf – is exactly what us Atlanticists have been telling the rest of the world to do. They have also started very seriously exploring public private partnership options as modeled by London and DC.

              Plus, it doesn’t jibe with what is available in the English language world about German concerns. The Germans themselves are not that concerned with a lack of megabuildings and the national pride of having the biggest/fastest/whateverest national scale projects. Rather, the infrastructure concerns are primarily about depreciation of local government assets, the small municipal stuff.

              Finally, I thought you were talking about recent changes with Merkel and co. Now you’re taking this back many years or decades? Germany has done lots of infrastructure construction over the past couple decades. They have a more equal society than we do. They have more efficient healthcare than we do. These things all directly contradict widespread, catastrophic failure. That’s the connection. Even if there is room for improvement (which of course, there always is), there is much less systemic failure compared to USUK.

          2. Paul Greenwood

            German healthcare is inefficient and overpriced. The Polyclinics present in the GDR until West Germany destroyed them were superior to the replacement by one-man surgeries. In fact in the UK and West Germany today they are building Polyclinics with several doctors and other practitioners like dentists and physiotherapists together in the same facility.

            There is a marked inferiority in German health care compared to the integrated provision in the UK NHS with a lack of modern equipment in many opticians and doctors’ surgeries and over 250 health insurance funds creating a fragmented payments system with an ever-shrinking catalogue of cover and rising charges born increasingly by the employee alone.

            Germany has suffered The Brezhnev Years under Merkel and looks increasingly moribund and decaying since 2005 when she clawed her way to power. She is not a Christian Democrat but a Green who infiltrated Kohl’s Party through Stasi connections like Wolfgang Schnur and plays her SED “Big Tent” approach by sucking in all major parties into her SED Front.

            She dislikes dissent and argument and wishes only to stay in power with whatever coalition of interests she needs to keep her one-woman party in control

            1. washunate

              On the specifics, I don’t think we disagree. I agree that the UK NHS is a very effective system. I also agree Merkel specifically isn’t some kind of wondrous leftist visionary (who is in the western world?).

              What I don’t follow is the sensationalism. Marked inferiority? the Brezhnev Years*?

              German healthcare costs more than the UK (of course, in part because Germany staffs more hospital beds per capita than the UK – that’s only inefficient if one does not value such capacity). Tax cuts and PPPs and other neoliberal gibberish have started creating their rather predictable negative consequences. And there are bigger issues like fossil fuel usage and nuclear power plants and participating in NATO and financial fraud and all that.

              But come on. UK life expectancy at birth is about 81.1. German is about 80.9. What marked difference exactly is there? This wasn’t some minor discussion above relative differences at the margins. This comment thread was that Germany is falling apart. That’s what I’m questioning, both for what that means and why those of us in the English language world seem so desperate to believe it to be the case.

              *also, let’s hope not: Brezhnev was big on military spending and ended up as a rather popular leader relative to his USSR peers

  3. visitor

    I repeat what I have already stated in a comment to a previous article: Merkel and her government did not invite refugees to Germany. In fact, every measure taken so far had only one objective: keep as many of those refugees as far away from Germany as possible. Hence:

    1) Dublin: the rule that refugees must remain and ask for asylum in the first country of entry to the EU — which for obvious geographical reasons happens never to be Germany.

    2) Africa: (1) collapses under the massive flows of desperate people? Then bribe African countries to prevent migrants from moving to Europe.

    3) Turkey: (2) fails? Then bribe Turkey to keep refugees in camps and prevent them from crossing the Mediterranean.

    4) Hotspots: (3) is taking too much time? Then make sure that refugees are blocked at the periphery of the EU — in Italy and Greece.

    5) Quotas: re-distributed those refugees stuck in (4) and who want to go to Germany or Sweden to somewhere else, away from Germany.

    6) Countries of origin: declare countries as safe, making it possible to deport refugees quickly.

    7) Subsidiary protection: if (6) does not work, ensure that asylum seekers are not treated as full-fledged refugees, making them easier to deport once war abates.

    8) If (7) does not work and refugee status must be granted, then restrict family reunification to prevent more people coming.

    And so on, and so forth. Most of those measures failed.

    The fact that Merkel was forced to accept droves of refugees entering Germany is due to three reasons:

    a) There are German, EU and international laws that Germany must abide with, and that compel the country to accept asylum seekers.

    b) The Dublin-Schengen glacis in the Balkans collapsed under the sheer number of people suddenly moving to the EU.

    c) Other countries, especially poorer ones, have been so infuriated by an overbearing Germany and its lack of solidarity in the past that they gleefully try to have Germany pick up the tab for the crisis.

    Those who criticize Merkel in Germany (and elsewhere) would face exactly the same quandary in her position: either violate international, EU and German laws to stop refugees at the border; or frantically try to hack some legal measure to deflect the flow of people to their country.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Germany was part of the Friends of Syria. Merkel actively encouraged the war. She invited refugees through their active creation. Refugees were going to go somewhere. Why not visit their friend? Crossing the Atlantic is too difficult.

      Politicians should be held accountable for the fallout from their decisions. Merkel as chancellor of Germany could have undermined the effort to attack Syria.

      1. susan the other

        It looks that way to me too. More like a secret agreement between Russia, the US, France, Germany and the UK. Russia and France would “go in” to Syria; the US and the UK would provide all the support needed, and Germany would maintain its pacifist position by accepting the refugees. But when the first giant wave of refugees arrived, the great humanitarian heart of the German people had a big infarction and they started burning down refugee housing, etc. I didn’t know NATO had sent warships to turn the refugees back to Turkey, whereupon Turkey will once again launch them away. This whole thing is shameless. The entire western world is an odious farce.

    2. Paul Greenwood

      Untrue. She took a decision on 4 Sept 2015 in secret with Fayman in Austria. She did not inform Seehofer that she and Fayman had opened the border and let an influx into Bavaria. She breached the German Constitution and the Dublin Agreement and German Statute Law. She exceeded the authority of the German Bundeskanzler and usurped the Bundestag.

      A German Government has brought in millions of foreign men into Germany and lodged them in Camps throughout Germany including 25,.000 on 67 military bases. It is surreal that a German Administration has set up camps across Germany to incarcerate undocumented foreigners and declare those who protest to be somehow “Pack” or “Nazis”. What would they have called anyone protesting when Dacha and Buchenwald were being set up in 1930s ?

      Merkel has no plan what to do with 800,000 young men 15-24 from Pakistan, Morocco, Tunisia, Albania, Iraq, Eritrea. She already had 262,000 failed Asylum Seekers they had failed to expel. There are only 4.3 million German males 15-24 to which she has added 800,000 men of military age and unproven origin with a German Army of just 60,000 which cannot be deployed internally because of outdated legislation.

      The collapse in retail sales may have much to do with the fear of women in Germany in an environment where physical assault and rape are now great unreported crimes

  4. No one in particular

    @ Visitor

    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/fluechtlingskrise/fluechtlingskrise-in-deutschland-rechtsstaatlich-machbar-14060376.html
    [riddled with legalese, the summary is – a lot of laws are broken]

    Merkel did, if involuntarily, invite a lot of migrants, and it was not covered by EU, German or other law – see link, four professors of law, not me.

    You can apply for political asylum only if you are on German soil, and I am not aware of any neighboring state where a war is fought or persecution is prevalent – in the middle of the EU. Geneva applies only to adjacent countries, and again – “for obvious geographic reasons” – not applicable. So if Dublin would be applied, NONE of the migrants had a legal right to come to Germany.

    As per EU commission, 60% of the migrants have an “economic” i.e. better their life chances motivation, and counting. I would accept an humanitarian motivation, but only with the approval of the parliament, currently outstanding.

    Merkel certainly is in a quandary to square the circle of “push and pull” factors, some self-inflicted, some admittedly not so much.

    Whilst some in Germany are suffering from a pathological “need to help” (to feel better/superior) – and thrive on “helping”, there was no legal precedence to issue the “blanket invitation” on September 4th. Period. And while the will to help war refugees from Syria and Iraq is laudable, it has been abused by scores of people from Northern Africa, the Balkans, etc. Why do think so many people are arriving without passports, if claiming to come from Syria is like winning the jackpot, i.e. the right to stay and much better life chances.

    Even if not imaginable for many Westerners, lot of families have sold everything, gone into debt to sent one family member, feathered the nest of the smugglers for this hope. At the very least there has been serious failure of communication – to manage expectations – as we all could observe over the recent month; partly because Merkel does not dare to touch the elephant in the room, the missing legal framework for legal economic immigration, thus the “political asylum” is stretched beyond it’s limits.

    And her “plan” is defeated simply by the sheer numbers – whilst 1 million all over the EU might have been possible, the 60-80 mio people globally in search of a better life – will be too much for Germany alone.

    The only reason for her to be still in power, other than the missing emergency brakes in the German Democratic system, is the fear of the CDU members to loose their own position of power, there is no vision to what could follow Merkel whilst preserving their own position.

    1. visitor

      The legal review you refer to basically amounts to recalling that Dublin allows Germany to push asylum seekers back to Austria, which is legally the place where they must ask for refugee status because that country allowed them to cross its territory after declining to send them back to Hungary (or Slovenia, or…) Taking into account the fact that Germany is allowed to make individual exceptions and not granting them “en masse”, this is basically a call to dump the hot potato onto Austria’s lap.

      Basically, this would be tactic (9): harp on the legal fine points and have Germany’s bordering countries deal with the refugees. Austria has already put in place a throttling mechanism to make sure it does not have to deal with lots of cases anyway — and that although much more effective than a zealous and pedantic application of the Dublin stipulations, this mechanism has dubious legality.

      With this, we have not left the tactic desperately followed by Merkel et al: deflect the refugees as much as possible from Germany, and let others deal with the mess. Just as I described.

      Regarding the 4th September decision (actually 5th September), it was clearly a measure to relieve temporarily the pressure on Hungary by allowing only those refugees who had already reached Hungary to proceed to Austria and further to Germany. The reason: Hungary was seriously on its way to crash Schengen, Schengen was essential (for reasons already discussed) to Germany, and Merkel was desperate to save Schengen from collapsing. It did not work: on the 13th September, Germany re-introduced border controls with Austria. Nowadays borders have closed further.

      But a “blanket invitation”? In no way. The fact that it was interpreted in such a way by the press and that it sucked in more refugees arriving in Greece was something Merkel could have predicted and forestalled, but she is a politician interested in securing short-sighted advantages to her country and patching things as they come — not a stateswoman with a vision.

      Regarding economic migrants, the missing passports, the asset-stripping to pay smugglers, etc, this is not new. Exactly the same issues were raised long ago, when the crisis was taking place in Spain and not in Greece, when corpses were washing ashore of the Canary Islands not on Lesbos, and when Ceuta and Melilla where being frantically fortified, not Bulgaria or Macedonia. The only thing that has changed is that the flows have progressively move East towards Europe’s soft underbelly, and that at each stage they grew by an order of magnitude. Spain dealt with tens of thousands of people per year, Italy with hundreds of thousands, and now we have reached the million mark in the Balkans. All the improvised plans on quotas, hot-spots, UNHCR funding, etc, come 20 years too late.

      1. No one particular

        Nice diversion, let’s deal with the fine print.
        a) we agree the current practice is illegal. b) it might sound morally superior to “help” the Austrians, but for whom is it the better solution? c) I maintain the “blanket invitation” was the result, even if unintended – the appearance of “all are welcome” incentivised too many to uproot themselves in vain d) true, the collective refusal of Germany and the rest of Europe to deal with the (economic) immigration question for decades has contributed to the current situation – however, Merkel’s solo attempt to solve the Budapest issue, and adding insult to injury – without informing the “partners” supposed to share the burden beforehand – was neither effective, nor sensible, nor diplomatic. e) I wonder whether the “save Schengen” argument will survive the scrutiny of hindsight, i.e. IMHO it does not sound credible, but I can only speculate and I will refrain. Schengen is important to the German economy, but the price paid – utter distrust by the majority of Germans into the government, state and press was much too high, I think. There must have been higher stakes at play, I guess. f) Merkel wasted 5-6 month to create a proper immigration law, differentiating the three routes, i.e. asylum, temporary war shelter due to Geneva Convention and “economic immigration” – and to entice the rest of Europe to deal with it, as she has not started the process to update the archaic German laws regarding sexual harassment, rape etc to EU wide standards, the current draft is wanting – before and after Cologne. g) She burdened the Germans with
        1. with a lot of unskilled and difficult to integrate Migrants
        2. destroyed whatever goodwill there was towards Germany in Europe or the world –
        3. settled the country with global unease about a Germany so out of bounds, palpable for everyone outside Berlin – years of reputation building down the drain
        4. recently gave the appearance of obstinacy to stick to a plan unsuited for reality, stubbornly ignoring the unwillingness of the other Europeans to sacrifice their countries alongside Germany – there will be no support and no “coalition of the willing” – at least not until Merkel sees reason and closes the borders. I do think her comment yesterday, about “migrants to not have the right to choose where to apply for asylum” was tentatively going in the right direction, but was certainly not strong enough to persuade desperate people not to start their journey or to go home from Greece.
        5. more or less exposed the German democratic system as incapable in dealing with this emergency situation in a legal and democratic way
        6. allowing H. Maas to accuse the ex constitutional judges of “mental arson” for voicing objections (FAZ) – the article was just about short of telling the judges to shut up, which, as an indication of were free speech is going, was rather frightening
        ……
        And no realism or vision in sight. Deplorable, for Germany and everybody else.

  5. OIFVet

    Send a couple of million to the US and to Saudi Arabia. And keep expediting the rest to Germany, with all due haste. The Balkans are indeed shutting down the borders, but given the mountainous terrain some migrants will inevitably slip through. Personally I find it a good investment to charter planes to Berlin and fly them directly to Madame Merkel. Because that’s what hse deserves for being a spineless puppet, and for also kissing the ring of the wanna-be sultan in Ankara.

  6. dandaniel

    The emperor is naked!
    Who should deal with this migration crisis? EU council or angela? I mean, you have a bunch of bureaucrats in bruxelles and EU was supposed to be led by this council? Also, EU has a puppet president, and a host of other dumb institutions very eager in designing and imposing all kind of stupid legislation on member countries, but unable to speak about this migration crisis. Give me a break! And angela … she is past due date already!

  7. washunate

    This post seems a little disjointed. Is the argument that Merkel specifically and Germany generally is bad because they’re not as open as they ought to be to foreign nationals? Or is the post saying Germany is bad because they are too open to foreign nationals?

    And is Germany bad because they trap Greece in an evil, domineering EMU? Or is Germany bad because they’re kicking Greece out of a great, happy EMU?

  8. TG

    I think Merkel – or perhaps, the establishment in general – will do fine. Any party seriously challenging the status quo will be declared to be racist and dissolved. Increasingly anyone objecting to the status quo will be accused of ‘hate speech’ – hate speech, of course, is any statement opposing government policy.

    Merkel was perfectly willing to let the Greeks starve to bail out the banks – the notion that she is in any way motivated by compassion is absurd. I hear that Merkel wants to make refugee labor available to big companies for just a euro an hour (medical care etc. to be subsidized by taxes on the middle class). Even a technically sophisticated economy needs quite a lot of ‘unskilled’ labor, and replacing a few million Germans making 15 euro/hour with refugees that only need be directly paid a euro an hour, can make the right companies an awful lot of money. Do the math.

    And on another note: we constantly hear that more people are always better, that anyone suggesting that opening the borders to the overpopulated third world could possibly in any way be a bad thing, must a priori be racist. So surely bottling up all those refugees in Greece can only be wonderful? Why not do the Greeks a favor and force them to take all the surplus populations from Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Pakistan etc? That simply MUST be wonderful and anyone objecting must be a fascist like Golden Dawn or Donald Trump and such hateful speech should be quashed as quickly as possible. Because people are the ultimate resource and it doesn’t matter if Greece runs out of food or fresh water or timber or housing or electric generating capacity etc., because more people will automatically and without delay create even more wealth despite having nothing to work with. Yes?

  9. VietnamVet

    It is quite astonishing to read these reports but there are no explanations of the causes.

    The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine were started by the West. The Troika’s imposition of austerity on Greece resulted in its borders being open to the refugees of the wars. The ruling elite want free movement of people and capital and are working to negate the powers of the democratic sovereign states. This contempt of the lower classes is the direct cause of the rise of people’s nationalist movements in the West.

  10. Knute Rife

    Between this and the disintegration of the EU, looks like the Fourth Reich isn’t going to last long either.

  11. Paul Greenwood

    Visitor must be sitting in Merkel’s Vorzimmer. Noone could be so blind as to facts otherwise. She has NOT allowed Ukrainians into Germany except for the family of Pyotr Poroschenko yet she will see a wave of emigration as the situation deteriorates. Dear old Zuckerberg faces prosecution by the Bundeskartellamt for the way his company handles personal data so he has readily folded to Heinko Maas and allowed Arvato, a sub of Bertelsmann (one of Merkel’s key sponsors Liz Mohn) to censor Facebook in Germany to the point where even “Anonymous” was shut down and moved to the Russian Website VK.com.

    So in Germany, Facebook postings are only those that fit with Government approval.

    The restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly are increasing as the system tries to suppress dissent and 68 secret facilities are being set up in Berlin for these Incomers who are getting free rail travel, free Internet, and whose health care costs are being carried on the backs of Germans who health insurers are losing money on giving them access to healthcare.

    Germany paid very little to support refugees in Lebanon or Jordan or Turkey -FAR, FAR, FAR less than the UK and now blow billions in Germany as the economy starts to tank. Merkel has antagonised everyone outside Germany completely isolating the country where people like Jacques Attali can even envisage war with Germany as a possibility going forward. Germany has blown all trust.

    A Genscher would NEVER have created such a mess

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