Writing in the Financial Times, Wolfgang Munchau takes a look at the challenges facing Germany this year. Top of the list, predictably enough, is the migrant crisis. As Munchau notes, Merkel’s unilateral decision to overturn the EU’s Dublin procedure for asylum-seekers and throw open Germany’s doors to all Syrian refugees is simply “unsustainable”:
The German chancellor must either have misjudged the effect or acted recklessly — or both.
Both, but then a narcissist cannot be expected to think of consequences for others.
Munchau then adds an interesting twist, this time to the narrative spun by Merkel cheerleaders that this large influx is somehow an answer to Germany’s longer-term (so long-term, in fact, that it’s largely illusory, but that’s a different discussion) labor “shortage”:
It is tempting to think of refugees and migrants as a new source of labour. But in this case this just is not true, at least not for now. The majority of those who arrive in Germany lack the skills needed in the local labour market. They will enter the low wage sector of the economy, and drive down wages, producing another deflationary shock. This is the last thing Germany and the eurozone need right now.
As Munchau notes, opposition to Merkel’s policy is growing within her own party as well, it seems, from her predecessor as chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. A man of the center-left with what can only be described as a curious relationship with Russia, Schroeder deserves considerable credit for addressing some of the structural inefficiencies within the German economy during his time in office (needless to say that Merkel, no iron lady, didn’t follow through), and now he seems willing to embrace another awkward reality:
Gerhard Schröder, her Social Democratic predecessor, last week came out against the policy with exactly the same arguments as the right-wingers in Ms Merkel’s own party: Germany cannot absorb such a large number.
More than 1m refugees arrived in the country in 2015. It could be twice as many this year and the same again next — more if you include family members who will eventually follow.
But Munchau is correct to say that Merkel’s political position remains pretty strong:
What I do not see, however, is a successful political coup against Ms Merkel from inside her own party. What protects her is the grand coalition with the Christian Social Union and the SPD. There is no majority to the right of her, or to the left for that matter.
Not for the first time (the disastrous embrace of the euro is another instance), Germany’s political class, united in folly, is showing itself strikingly unrepresentative of the range of opinion within the country. Perhaps it won’t matter, but immigration — particularly on the scale that is now underway — is a rather more visceral issue than monetary policy.
On that topic, it’s worth noting this from a recent piece by Jacob Heilbrunn in the Los Angeles Times:
“All the parties in parliament are for refugees, and a large part of the media agrees,” Malte Lehming, an editor at the Berlin Tagesspiegel, told me, “but at least half of the population consists of enraged citizens who feel they have no political representation and are walking around with their fists in their pockets.”
Anyone who thinks that is a sign of a healthy democracy has lost his mind.
Meanwhile the EU’s establishment is trying to scare voters — or, more accurately, awkward EU leaders — into submission.
“Without Schengen [the ‘passport-free zone’ that encompasses much of the EU] . . . the euro has no point,” Juncker told a New Year news conference on Friday. Historic national resentments were re-emerging, he added, accusing his generation of EU leaders of squandering the legacy of the union’s founders, survivors of World War Two.
Leaving aside Juncker’s routine distortion of history, the claim by the EU’s top bureaucrat that the euro is dependent on Schengen makes absolutely no sense.
And if “historic national resentments” are “re-emerging” (and, to a degree, they are), that is a consequence of overreach by Brussels, whether with the euro or, now, by insisting on the continuation of Schengen in an age of accelerating mass immigration.
The authors of the Reuters piece, asking whether this is how “Europe” (actually the EU, not the same thing) “ends,” sketch out this supposedly terrifying scenario:
The Germans, founders and funders of the postwar union, shut their borders to refugees in a bid for political survival by the chancellor who let in a million migrants. And then — why not? — they decide to revive the Deutschmark while they’re at it.
Awkwardly for scaremongers, both these developments would in fact be good news. The first would force those EU countries at the periphery to toughen their borders, and the second (although I’d prefer to see the euro split into northern and southern units, at least as a first stage) would, after some turbulence, be a much-needed boost to the broader European economy.
But all this would involve a retreat from the idea that the EU’s “ever closer union” must always move forward. As as result, despite “temporary” suspensions here and there, Schengen is likely to survive, and so is the euro: What a shame.
Meanwhile, the Reuters writers quote a “senior German official” as saying that arrivals had not fallen sharply over the winter months “as had been expected.” I am shocked, shocked by this development.
The official added:
“You can only imagine what happens when the weather improves.”