With the attacks in Cologne (and elsewhere) sharpening the debate over Merkel’s disastrous immigration policy (even if there is currently no confirmation that any of those involved were part of the current wave of migrants), the timing of this award to Germany’s worst postwar chancellor may turn out to be a touch ironic:
Angela Merkel has won the international “Four Freedoms Award” in 2016 for her moral leadership of Germany and Europe during the refugee crisis, among other things…. The Roosevelt Foundation in Middelburg, the Netherlands, and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in New York present the annual Four Freedoms Award which is named after the four freedoms President Franklin D. Roosevelt named in a speech in 1941 and which all people should enjoy. They are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear… The jury praised Ms. Merkel for her great moral leadership in Germany against the anti-Islam movement Pegida and also noted that she had played a decisive role in overcoming the financial crisis.
I’ll say nothing about Merkel’s “decisive role in overcoming the financial crisis” (who knew?), but freedom from fear, eh? I wonder.
As for Pegida, this story makes interesting reading. The Local:
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) [Merkel’s coalition partners] want Germany’s internal intelligence agency to spy on the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), documents seen by news magazine Spiegel show. As well as wanting the Verfassungschutz, Germany’s equivalent to MI5, to spy on the AfD, the SPD faction in the national parliament also want them to keep tabs on Dresden anti-Islam movement Pegida, an internal party document shows.
“In the future, dangerous far right trends in the AfD and groups like Pegida must be put under the observation of the security services,” the paper states.
“Outrages against refugees, refugee homes, refugee helpers and politicians by far right extremists have taken on worrying proportions,” the centre-left party’s position paper continues.
“Far right hatemongers are attempting to use people’s fears to stoke hatred,” the paper states with reference to the AfD and Pegida. “We’re not going to stand for that.”
It shouldn’t need saying (but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway) that watching those who might resort to violence is the correct thing to do (and there has indeed been a worrying upsurge in the number of incidents of the type described), but it’s difficult not to read that report without thinking that the SPD is no less interested in monitoring the wrong kind of opinions.
Freedom of speech?
Meanwhile the new arrivals continue.
Germany has seen no drop in the number of people arriving and seeking asylum despite EU efforts to confront a migration crisis, the deputy interior minister said on Wednesday, blaming a lack of controls at Europe’s borders. More than a million people fleeing the Middle East and Africa arrived in Europe in 2015. Denmark began 2016 by imposing checks on its border this week, prompting the EU to call Germany, Denmark and Sweden to a meeting in Brussels. Germany has been one of the most seriously affected EU member states. Sources in Berlin said on Wednesday the country registered some 1.09 million asylum seekers last year.
“We had an average influx of 3,200 refugees per day arriving in Germany, and the numbers are not declining in the last days,” Ole Schroeder, the deputy German minister, told a briefing in Brussels. “Our problem at the moment in Europe is that we do not have a functioning border control system, especially at the Greece-Turkey border,” Schroeder said.
But not to worry, The Economist explains, in a passage from an article published in November last year (but which the magazine retweeted today) that, well, read it for yourself:
The task of integrating so many foreigners will test German politics and society in 2016. Yet Germany’s Willkommenskultur (“welcome culture”) will prevail, as most Germans understand that refugees deserve asylum, and immigrants enrich the country. Today’s quintessential German stand-up snack is either a Turkish doner kebab or a Currywurst, which combines the archetypal Germanic sausage with spice from the sub-continent. In high and low culture, Germany has become unimaginable without such “foreign” influences. When Germany won the football World Cup in 1990, all its national players were Bio-Deutsche. When it won the cup again in 2014, two were Polish-born and others had family names such as Özil (Turkish), Khedira (Tunisian), Boateng (Ghanaian) and Mustafi (Albanian).
Food! Soccer players! It comes as no surprise that the word “vibrant” appears later on in the same piece.
Corporate bosses and policymakers, too, know that Germany needs immigrants. Bio-Deutsche make too few babies. New Germans who are today being fingerprinted as their asylum claims are processed will tomorrow care for the elderly and pay the taxes that fund a generous welfare state.
This is an argument (so similar to the nonsense spouted by the likes of Jeb!) stranded in the thinking of mid-century (that’s the twentieth century) and immune to the realities of today’s automation technology or, for that matter, the difficulties of integrating refugees into the workforce.
No matter. To borrow Stalin’s encouraging words from 1935, “life has become better, comrades, life has become merrier”.
And all will turn out just fine.