Thursday, September 08, 2016

What's wrong with "Wir schaffen das" [Merkel]

On 31 August 2015 Merkel for the first used her now (in)famous sentence "Wir schaffen das" when discussing the increase of refugees. In many circles it was greeted as a courageous and moral standing. I beg to disagree.

It is a well known principle that the best place for refugees is neighboring countries. Yet the UN is complaining that is receiving less and less money to support the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. And the EU has cut at least as much as the rest of the world. Money can't be the problem: The total the UN asks for is 4.5 Billion dollar but it receives only a fraction of that. Yet the EU is spending much more on receiving the refugees and on paying off Turkey.

The EU has a problem that a large part of the refugees are economic refugees. Even many Syrians are not fleeing the violence but the economic catastrophe that is caused by the violence. In such a situation an experienced politician like Merkel knows that although you may do your best to receive refugees in a decent way it is not wise to say anything that might be explained by would-be refugees as an encouragement. It is puzzling that she did it anyway.

Then there is Turkey. Turkey was at that moment already trying to blackmail the EU by flooding it with refugees.In that light encouraging refugees to come was puzzling. Unfortunately Merkel's behavior towards Erdogan would become even more puzzling. In the refugee agreement she insisted on giving Erdogan largely what he wanted. Strange - you should punish blackmailers, not rewards them. By giving Erdogan what he wanted - including a visa-free travel agreement - and by going to Istanbul and telling the press there that the refugee agreement had brought Turkey closer to an EU membership Merkel helped Erdogan to win the elections a few months later.

The refugees are fleeing for the war in Syria. Turkey plays an important part in that war as the insurgents are mainly supplied through its territory. For a long time Turkey actively prevented refugees from travelling further towards the EU - seeing them as a reservoir from which it could recruit more rebel fighters. It is not really clear why it suddenly changed its policies and opened the gates. One theory is that it wanted to put the EU under pressure to do more to support the uprising. Other theories point to the fact that the US is supporting Merkel's position and mention old theories that Merkel is a CIA asset. They point to America's military doctrine that wants to prevent that the rising of dominant countries on other continents - including Europe.

The EU has largely supported Turkey's and America's active support of the uprising. Yet this constitutes a severe violation of international law. Stopping that support would soon end the war and the refugee crisis. Yet this option is considered taboo.

Merkel's "Wir schaffen das" was also undemocratic. She didn't have any mandate from the German parliament when she opened the door with her statement. It was a solo action. And it is by now widely detested among the population. She doubled down when next she tried to force the other EU countries to open their doors for refugees too.

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