Germany: A battle over migration threatens Merkel
It’s time for Chancellor Angela Merkel to reverse course, said Bild in an editorial. Germany took in nearly a million asylum seekers in 2015, and hundreds of thousands more have arrived since then. Some of those new arrivals have committed “gruesome acts of violence,” like the Tunisian man who smashed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in 2016, killing 12 people. To prevent more outrages, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer now wants to toughen our borders and give authorities the right to turn away any asylum seeker who is already registered in another European Union country, has previously been denied German residency, or has no papers. Seehofer is from the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and his position reflects the CSU’s harder line on immigrants. Merkel has so far rejected Seehofer’s demands, arguing that they breach EU rules on freedom of movement and would place an unfair burden on southern EU nations such as Italy and Greece, where many migrants land. But she is out of step with Germans on this issue: Nearly two-thirds want undocumented migrants kept out.
Merkel fancies herself the “chancellor of European unity,” said Christian Nitsche in Tagesschau.de, and that delusion may cost her the chancellorship of Germany. Seehofer has given Merkel just two weeks to hammer out an immigration agreement with other EU leaders. But if Seehofer is not happy with the resulting deal, he’ll close Bavaria’s borders, and her governing coalition will fall apart—requiring new national elections that will likely boost the already surging far-right Alternative for Germany party. Merkel wants to bring Europe together, but if she can’t compromise with the CSU, then she will ultimately “strengthen the enemies of the European idea.”
This is pure electioneering by Seehofer, said Ferdos Forudastan in Süddeutsche Zeitung. He fears that if he doesn’t take a hard line, his CSU will lose votes to the far right in Bavarian elections this October. But his ploy is dangerous. CSU leaders have inflamed voters’ passions, fueling fears of refugees. The party has “played with terms like ‘asylum tourism’ and ‘total breakdown of the system,’” encouraging Germans to see asylum seekers as canny interlopers rather than desperate human beings.
Xenophobes are already using the dispute to their advantage, at least overseas, said Clemens Wergin in Die Welt. In an “unprecedented interference in a domestic political crisis of an allied country,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted a series of lies this week about Germany, saying crime was up thanks to immigrants who had “strongly and violently changed” German culture. In reality, crime is at its lowest level here since 1992, and statistics show that immigrants are no more violent than Germans. But Trump doesn’t care about foreign truths: His aims are domestic. Look, he says, if we don’t crack down on migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, “America will end up like Europe, flooded by refugees and near losing its identity.” Europe’s leaders cannot follow Trump’s path—we must set a humane example. ■