On Sept. 4, 2015, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, declared that there is no upper limit on the number of refugees Germany would take and thus opened not just Germany’s, but Europe’s borders to the invasion of migrants from around the world that promptly followed. Not many at the time stopped to think what right did Mrs. Merkel have to speak on behalf of Europe, let alone question the implications of this unprecedented invitation. Quite on the contrary, the European press and establishment gushed over the great humanitarian gesture by a lady that had already been elevated to nearly saintly status in Germany and outside of it. The Germans had already taken to calling her Mutti (mom) and compare her to Sister Theresa, while Time Magazine not only chose her as “Person of the year 2015,” but declared her “chancellor of the free world.”
Yet, it didn’t take long for the profound foolishness of her policies to be exposed for what they were and the ‘open door’ invitation to be quietly rescinded. However, the long-term consequences of this exercise of Germany throwing its weight mindlessly around will be with us for a long time and may, in fact, mark the beginning of a serious fault line between EU’s East and West. This may ultimately be the longest-lasting effect of Merkel’s taking it upon herself to decide what’s good not only for Germany, but for the EU as a whole. For there is no evidence that she consulted either her EU colleagues or her own cabinet before her grand pronouncement. Despite that, the Eastern Europeans were promptly told by EU mandarins that they would have to take assigned quotas of migrants and, if they failed to do that, would be fined €250,000 per migrant not taken. To the Eastern European states this looked not only undemocratic and an assault on their sovereignty, but remarkably similar to German dictates of an unfortunate bygone era. Especially given the fact that neither Germany nor anybody else in Western Europe had been able to integrate the Muslim migrants they already had. To nobody’s surprise their reaction was swift and predictably negative. A number of them are now suing the European Commission in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
What is seldom discussed, though it is far from unknown, is that this is not the first time Mrs Merkel has acted impetuously with barely a thought for the consequences, prompting an astute critic to call her “a postmodern politician with a premodern, Machiavellian contempt for both causes and people.” While this is subject for another essay, it is worthwhile to briefly discuss the available evidence of the damage Merkel’s ‘open door’ policies have already inflicted.
In 2015, 1.1 million migrants entered Germany and 476,649 applied for political asylum according to official statistics. More than half of those that came neither applied for asylum nor left the country, but simply went underground. What they are doing and how they support themselves is unknown. According to a recent police report issued on May 23, 2016, however, at least some of them may be turning to a life of crime. It lists 402,741 crimes committed by migrants, including 38% of robberies and 70% of petty theft offenses. More troublesome still is the evidence that a large number of terrorists may have used the opportunity to come by pretending to be migrants. German authorities revealed that the number of “extremely dangerous Islamists” in the country has grown from 270 in January 2015 to 497 in 2016 and in early June, German security services thwarted a terrorist attack planned by four Syrian ‘migrants’ that aimed a Paris-like massacre in downtown Dὔsseldorf.
Gone are also the sanguine if unrealistic hopes for the migrants as the solution to Germany’s labor shortage, which prompted the CEO of Daimler Benz, for instance, to dream aloud of a “second Wirtschaftswunder.” The vast majority of migrants have neither skills nor education (97% lack both according to the Turkish ministry of education) and the cost of teaching them German and some skills and pay for their keep will explode from €16.1 billion in 2016 to €93.4 billion by 2020. Even so, the most sanguine estimates of the German government are that 55% of the migrants will be able to find a job in 5 years. In the meantime, the German legislature passed an “Integration Law,’ praised by Merkel as a ‘milestone,’ that has some disturbing features for a democratic polity. It would allow the government to hire migrants even if there were better qualified German or EU job candidates and make it possible for the authorities, rather than the migrants themselves, to decide where they would live.
More questionable still have been Merkel’s efforts to make up for her own misguided policies by striking a deal with arch Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan to keep the migrants in Turkey, in return for a lot of money and visa-free travel that would boost his chances to establish an Islamist regime accountable to no one but himself. With five visits to Ankara in seven months, Merkel has shown herself adept in kowtowing to the radical Islamist in a prime example of unprincipled bazaar politics at its best. The fact that this deal may not happen after all, is an example of how ill-conceived the policy was to begin with.
These serious missteps by the German chancellor notwithstanding, the thing that bothers the Eastern Europeans more than anything else is the unalloyed pacifism permeating the German body politic and refusal to understand the visceral insecurity they feel in the face of Russia’s aggressive expansionism under Putin. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Germans and others, decided that there would never be another war in Europe and promptly disarmed. The army shrank to only 177,000 from 600,000, 90% of its tanks were mothballed and presently only 38 of its 114 Eurofighters are operational. With military expenditures limited to 1.2% of GDP, it is not likely that the German military will be a factor in European defense anytime soon. If it were possible to have even worse news it is recent surveys showing that Germans would not fight to fulfill NATO obligations. A recent Bertelsmann opinion survey indicated that only 31% believe that Germany would fight if a NATO ally is attacked by Russia. Add to this that Merkel’s vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, aggressively advocates the removal of sanctions on Russia as we speak and it would not be a surprise if a putative question about German leadership in the EU is answered by Eastern Europe with a resounding: Nein, Danke!
By Alex Alexiev