Refugee crisis

Berlin Isolated by its Arrogance

Oct. 25, 2015 - Brussels, Bxl, Belgium - Donald Tusk , the president of the European Council , and former Polish Prime Minister votes at Permanent Representation of Poland to EU in Brussels, Belgium on 25.10.2015 Poland holds parliamentary elections today by Brussels Belgium PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY - ZUMAw80_ OCT 25 2015 Brussels Bxl Belgium Donald Tusk The President of The European Council and Former Polish Prime Ministers Votes AT permanently representation of Poland to EU in Brussels Belgium ON 25 10 2015 Poland holds Parliamentary Elections Today by Brussels Belgium PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY ZUMAw80_
The refugee question is dividing Europe.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    As people flee war and poverty, Europe is divided over how to handle the growing number of people seeking asylum and concern and resentment is growing about Germany’s open-door policy, the author writes.

  • Facts

    Facts

    In several leading European media, E.U. council president Donald Tusk called for Germany to limit the number of refugees coming to the country.

  • Audio

    Audio

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Since Angela Merkel’s decision to let in refugees stranded in Hungary at the end of August, 560,000 illegal refugees have come to Germany. The relaxing of the Dublin protocols in dealing with refugees led to an unprecedented influx of people. In September, 141,418 newcomers were processed, in October there were 202,466 and the number rose to 216,000 in November.

The police force issued these figures and they’re based on incomplete controls in the border regions. Not nearly all refugees are being processed there so in fact, the numbers are higher and in particular, the number of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan rose significantly. More than one third of initial asylum applications are made by men and the majority of them are Muslim.

Polls suggest that these developments are worrying to the majority of Germans and many believe the country has reached its limits. There’s growing criticism of Germany’s open-door policy across the political spectrum, from the CSU to Oskar Lafontaine. Even Jens Spahn, state secretary and a member of the CDU’s executive committee, is accusing the chancellor of “failing the state” and warned, “As a complex modern society with the highest welfare contributions in the world, Germany cannot function if practically everyone can allocate themselves just by crossing its borders.”

Josef Schuster, the President of the Central Council of Jews, has also called for a reversal of Berlin’s refugee policy. Mr. Schuster fears that many of the refugees come from cultures where a “hatred of Jews and intolerance“ are established. He said, “Don’t just think about the Jews, think of the equality between men and women, or attitudes towards homosexuals.” The Central Council of Jews in Germany is calling for a limit on the number of refugees. “Sooner or later we won’t be able to avoid reaching an upper limit,” Mr. Schuster warned.

While domestically, Angela Merkel seems to have the opposition under control, trouble is looming in Europe.

While domestically, Angela Merkel seems to have the opposition under control – the growing strength of the Alternative for Germany party could strategically secure power for the CDU – trouble is looming in Europe. Almost all of the E.U. countries are between upset and frantic about Ms. Merkel’s stance. Her opening of the borders and her proclamation of a welcoming culture, with all the “We can manage” propaganda, selfies with refugees and the most generous help for asylum-seekers in the world, have left the rest of Europe reeling.

Now, everyone’s annoyed. Germany’s European neighbors are appalled that Berlin’s open-border policy has been accompanied by  aggressive admonition of the rest of Europe, with constant complaints about a lack of support. This is increasingly prompting its partners to opt for their own course. Germany’s government is storming through Europe with a moral superiority and a know-it-all attitude like someone driving the wrong way down the motorway – who hasn’t noticed that it is they who are in the wrong, not everyone else.

Berlin is treating its East European neighbors with arrogance. It is as though East Europe’s rejection of the wild, illegal mass migration of millions of Muslim men from the war-torn regions of the Middle East is illegitimate. First of all Hungary was treated like a diplomatic renegade, then criticism followed of the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland and Slovakia. Instead of fighting the problem with proper border controls and reintroducing the Dublin protocols, Berlin wants to redistribute all the refugees it’s attracted throughout Europe. Germany opened its borders without asking Europe. Now Europe is supposed to bear the consequences. Anyone opposing Berlin’s stance is threatened with a loss of funds. To Germany’s neighbors, it feels like blackmail. Slovakia now wants to challenge that. The feeling of resentment is so great that it’s threatening to cause a major rift in the E.U. 

Now, in desperation, E.U. Council President Donald Tusk has dared to take a step. Tusk is actually super loyal to Angela Merkel, he’s a sensible, rational man. But obviously he – like CSU leader Horst Seehofer – doesn’t see any other way to bring the chancellor to sense than through public pressure. What he’s done is actually what an E.U. council president shouldn’t do. In an interview, he attacked Ms. Merkel and publicly called on her to make a U-turn. Mr. Tusk, like many in Europe, is angry that Ms. Merkel placed herself above European law when she let in the refugees stranded in Hungary. Breaking with diplomatic protocol, he said, “If we have rules, then we have to stick to them.“ That also applies to the Dublin procedure, according to which refugees are returned to the country in Europe that they first entered. “We can’t run away from our responsibilities. Even Germany,“ Mr. Tusk warned, in reference to Angela Merkel’s calling the ruling “obsolete.“

The former president of Poland has publicly called on Europe to oppose Ms. Merkel. He repeated this call in leading newspapers in several countries so everyone could hear it. The key message is: “some political leaders say the influx of refugees is too big to stop. That’s dangerous.” What should be said is, “The influx of refugees is too big not to stop it.” The number of people seeking asylum in Europe needs to be limited, the E.U. council president says. He expects political leaders to change their course because “no one is ready today to receive these kind of numbers, including Germany.”

Referring to Germany’s call to distribute refugees throughout Europe, Mr. Tusk used the phrase “political coercion” – a dramatic phrase because Mr. Tusk’s position of opposition to Ms. Merkel makes a return to regular diplomatic relations impossible – especially as he  accuses the chancellor of exposing Europe to the danger of terrorism. It is too easy for refugees to enter Europe now, he said. “Please don’t downplay the role of security. If you want to screen migrants and refugees, you need more time than only one minute to fingerprint.”

The E.U. council president’s noticeably undiplomatic “ J’accuse“ is a sign of the crisis that the refugee influx has caused in Europe. But it is also a sign of how isolated the chancellor has become.

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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