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  • Konrad Werner: Stop pretending Merkel is soft on refugees


Konrad Werner: Stop pretending Merkel is soft on refugees

Merkel hasn't suddenly found a heart and gone mad. And she's not being "unrealistic" about the refugee crisis. She's just doing what she always does – protecting Germany's economy. Oh, and deciding not to let people die.

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Photo by Bernd Schwabe in Hannover (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

For a while there, everyone (including me) seemed to have decided that Angela Merkel had changed. We thought she’d lapsed into a moment of moral leadership after a decade of maintaining this shell of pragmatism with an air-tight principle-free vacuum inside it. After all, she made a decision to keep Germany’s borders open to refugees, and now – to her credit – she’s sticking to it, despite a massive backlash from her own party, and threats of a “constitutional crisis” from her Bavarian allies if she doesn’t do what they say: build “transit zones” at the border to send people right back out, set an upper limit on the number of refugees, and pour billions of taxpayers money into “strengthening Europe’s borders”.

But what if Merkel is just being her normal pragmatic self? Maybe from her point of view, she’s doing what she’s always done – as little as possible. She knows that all of the above measures would be drastic and counterproductive and deadly – people would freeze to death in Hungary or Greece where the governments have little economic means and even less political will to do anything about it. Not only that, building a fence would destroy the Schengen agreement, which Germany has done really well with – the EU has been a golden hen for Germany, so why threaten that?

In fact, Merkel has already done as much as she can practically do to appease the clamours of the CSU, the AfD, and PEGIDA: in the space of a few months, she fast-tracked a new law that makes life as difficult as possible for asylum seekers – benefits have been cut or replaced by tokens, deportations have been accelerated. Meanwhile, on a European level, she’s also done everything she can to maintain the walls of fortress Europe – she sent border guards to Slovenia, given extra money to Turkey, set up extra camps along the Balkan route. Now she’s even talking about deporting refugees back to Afghanistan, even though the place is blatantly still a war zone.

Obviously none of this is enough for Horst Seehofer and the AfD – if you listen to them, you’d think she was a looney Muslim socialist. But she’s not: she’s doing everything to stop people coming to Germany except literally letting them freeze and starve to death at the borders. That’s it. Business as usual.