Austria’s (Socialist) Chancellor may have been indulging in plenty of moral preening over the migrant crisis (as well as taking the opportunity to step down into the gutter with comments comparing some of Hungary’s actions with Holocaust-era deportations), but his center-right coalition partners are growing restless.
Tensions within Austria’s government, stoked by the refugee crisis, burst into the open on Thursday as the head of the conservative People’s Party threatened to scupper the ruling coalition after less than two years in office.
“If we are unable to show soon — by which I mean in the coming months — that we are willing and able to govern, then it makes little sense to keep messing about,” Deputy Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said in a newspaper interview.
“I say quite openly that after the Upper Austria state election (last weekend) I am not prepared to be an idle passenger,” he said.
Mitterlehner’s People’s Party (ÖVP) is junior partner to the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) of Chancellor Werner Faymann in an unloved “grand coalition” which is due to remain in office until 2018. Last weekend however, both parties suffered disastrous losses in local elections in Upper Austria where the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) finished second after its share of the vote soared 15 percentage points. On October 11, elections are scheduled to take place in the city state of Vienna that could produce a political earthquake. Polls put the FPÖ only a few points shy of the SPÖ, which has governed the Austrian capital uninterrupted since 1945. Surveys show that a major reason for the populist FPÖ’s surge in popularity — nationally it tops opinion polls, scoring more than 30 percent — is the influx of tens of thousands of migrants in recent months.
Last month, almost 170,000 people entered Austria, most of whom travelled onwards to Germany and beyond, but the Alpine country still expects a record 80,000 asylum requests this year. Speaking to the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten daily, Mitterlehner said the government’s answer to the crisis should be to finally get to grips with deep structural reforms to boost the economy.
But he also said Austria had to “sharpen” its immigration policy: “Refugees who need protection should get it. But the state’s sovereignty to decide who immigrates should remain in place.”
That last is an interesting comment in the light of the EU’s recent quota diktat…
The People’s Party should pay some attention to Sweden’s faltering center-right Moderaterna, deservedly thrown out of office last year after pursuing a nutty ‘open borders’ policy that paved the way for the rise of the Sweden Democrats on the populist right (which duly paved the way for an election victory by a new (minority) left-wing government last year).
Meanwhile, things are going just swimmingly in Merkelland.
A mass brawl involving around 200 refugees from Afghanistan and Syria broke out on Wednesday night at an asylum centre in Hamburg which has been beset by problems. The Max-Bahr Market in Bergedorf in southeast Hamburg has been used as refugee accommodation for less than a week, but has already seen a hunger strike and now a mass brawl.
When 600 refugees moved into the empty market hall on September 27th, there was not a single bed in the building, the Hamburg Morgenpost (MOPO) reported at the time. Around 100 refugees sat on the footpath outside the building as a mark of protest, with some complaining that the building had not been cleaned.
Parents were angry that there was no separate area designated for them to stay with their children.
Within hours around 100 people had gone on hunger strike, protesting against the poor conditions. Among them was a pregnant woman.On Sunday there was already sign of tensions developing when police reporting scuffles between 25 refugees, resulting in two men being slightly injured. In Wednesday night’s violence, 200 refugees were involved in the fight, which according to one witness broke out after a disagreement over use of the shower facilities. Representatives of the fire services told MOPO that some of those involved used iron bars ripped from beds, as Afghan and Syrian refugees fought against each other. Around 50 police vehicles rushed to the centre to bring the situation under control.
As huddled masses go……
Mind you, some of them might be able to move into Gabrielle Keller’s place.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge. Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France. The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees…. Ms Keller’s case follows that of Bettina Halbey, a nurse who is being evicted from her home of 16 years in the town of Nieheim, hundreds of miles to the north.
Meanwhile, writing in The Spectator, Douglas Murray discusses the problems in the refugee centers, and links them in to Merkel’s efforts to get a tighter grip on what some of her ungrateful citizens have been saying on Facebook about it all:
Surely it is news reports like this [about the centers] that ought to be stopped? For they are just the sort of thing that might make people less than 100% ‘yay’ about the transformation of their continent. And some of them may then write about their feelings on social media. So Chancellor Merkel won’t be able to sort out her Facebook problem until she’s sorted out her press problem. But she won’t be able to sort out her press problem until she finds some way to sort out her facts problem. And what – apart from opening Europe’s doors to the world – is Frau Merkel doing about that?
Anyone who thinks the situation in Europe isn’t dire should reflect on this. Hundreds of thousands of people from across Africa and the Middle East are pouring into Europe. Neither Chancellor Merkel nor any of her colleagues have any idea who most of these people are, and none of them seem to have considered the long-term impact of this population-replacement on the long-term stability of our continent. But what they are trying to do is to stop Europeans writing about this on Facebook.
The phrase ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ doesn’t really do justice to this, does it?
On the brighter side, there are a few more signs that Merkel’s authority may be taking a well-deserved, if unduly belated, hit.
Die Welt reports that Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has contradicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel by renewing his call for an EU-wide cap on the number of asylum seekers. Addressing the Bundestag his morning, he said, “In my opinion, we need to agree on fixed quotas for the generous reception of refugees, but we should also limit the capacity.” As the number of new arrivals in Germany hit a record high of 200,000 in September, the Interior Minister is also considering setting up “transit zones” on the country’s borders to assess asylum claims, and return those who are unsuccessful immediately, reports DPA.
Discontent towards Merkel’s crisis management continues to grow within her CDU/CSU party ranks and amongst the federal states. “Limit, accelerate, return – these are the most urgent tasks,” said Reiner Haseloff, the Minister President of Saxony-Anhalt, “The absorption capacity is almost exhausted.” Die Welt reports that unemployment amongst those who have gained asylum has risen 20% to 161,000 in comparison to last year. Meanwhile, the number of those claiming unemployment benefits rose 23% from July to 436,000. Separately, 5,000 people protested Germany’s asylum policy in a march lead by the anti-immigration and anti-euro AfD party in Erfurt yesterday.
In an opinion poll conducted on 25th September by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, 24% of the respondents thought that Germany was doing too much for migrants (two weeks earlier 17% had claimed this); 40% believed that Germany is doing as much as it should for migrants (in the previous survey this had been 57%).