A Norwegian peace activist says that German chancellor Angela Merkel is his frontrunner to win the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize later this week for her open-door policy in accepting Syrian war refugees.
Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, a think tank, lauded Ms. Merkel’s decision to grant asylum in Germany to refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria and Iraq. The move placed her at the top of the Nobel Committee’s list, he said.
“In a time when many have dodged responsibility, Merkel has shown true leadership and risen above politics, taking a humane approach in a difficult situation,’’ Mr. Harpviken wrote on his institute’s website. “Merkel may perhaps not qualify as an altruistic Mother Theresa, and her stance has toughened in recent weeks, but a collective European response to the current situation and handling of migrants and refugees in the future, is unthinkable without Merkel at the helm.’’
The institute is one of the many individuals, groups and former winners that nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is set to be awarded on Friday. Although Mr. Harpviken’s institute regularly comments on the prize process, it does not make a formal recommendation to the committee, according to the group’s website.
Mr. Harpviken is not a member of the five-member Nobel Prize Committee of Norwegians who will decide and announce this year’s Peace Prize winner.
But a senior researcher at Mr. Harpviken’s institute, Henrik Syse, is one of the five voting members on the Nobel Committee. Earlier this year, the Nobel committee said it was considering 273 people who had been nominated for the peace prize.
“In a time when many have dodged responsibility, Merkel has shown true leadership and risen above politics, taking a humane approach in a difficult situation.”
The prize last year was awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s right advocate, and to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for women’s education who survived an assassination attempt.
In his 2014 recommendations ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Harpviken had included Ms. Yousafzai on a list of five people he considered favorites to win the prize. Mr. Satyarthi’s name did not make it on his list.
Ms. Merkel’s decision to grant Syrian refugees asylum in Germany has won plaudits abroad but proven controversial at home, where her political support has been slipping amid the influx of unprecedented numbers of men, women and children from the war zone.
Officially, the German government expects up to 1 million refugees this year. The Munich-based Ifo Institute, one of the country’s leading economics research groups, predicted that the costs of housing, caring and integrating the newcomers would be €10 billion per year.
On Monday, Bild reported that the authorities may even expect 1.5 million asylum seekers this year. Germany’s top-selling newspaper, citing an internal government forecast that it said had been classed as confidential, said the authorities expect close to a million people to arrive in the fourth quarter of the year alone.
“This high number of asylum seekers runs the risk of becoming an extreme burden for the states and municipalities,” the report stated, according to Bild.
The refugee issue has divided Germany’s political class and Ms. Merkel’s own conservative-led political coalition, with her party’s Bavarian sister group, the Christian Social Union, openly urging her to backtrack from her policy and put a lid on refugees.
At a celebration on Saturday to mark the 25th anniversary of the reunification of the former East and West Germany, the German president, Joachim Gauck, lauded Ms. Merkel’s policy but acknowledged that the country’s ability to assimilate refugees was limited.
Michael Wohlgemuth, the head of the Berlin office of Open Europe, a think tank that lobbies for immigration reform in the European Union, said in September that Ms. Merkel’s chance of winning the Peace Prize had been hurt by her tough line on Greece during the negotiations for its third financial rescue package earlier this year.
“I don’t believe she could get the Nobel prize, because of her stance on Greece,’’ Mr. Wohlgemuth said at the time. “I think she did the right thing (on Greece), but that wasn’t something that people in other countries understood particularly well.
“I don’t think she’s likely to win the Nobel prize; that would be a big surprise,’’ Mr. Wohlgemuth said. “Though Obama won it, so anything’s possible.’’
Aside from the German chancellor, Mr. Harpviken said this year’s other favorites to win the Peace Prize include: Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, and Timoleón Jiménez, a leader of that country’s FARC rebels; Dmitry Muratov, the editor of the Novaya Gazeta, a Russian independent newspaper, as well as the newspaper’s staff; Japan’s Article 9 Association, a group pushing the country to refrain from foreign “belligerency;’’ and three activists fighting sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jeanne Nacatche Banyere, Jeannette Kahindo Bindu and Dr. Denis Mukwege.
Kevin O’Brien is the editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global Edition. To reach him: firstname.lastname@example.org