Understanding Angel Merkel’s attitude towards refugees

Global Pulse article about Angela MerkelIn a recent article, Global Pulse Magazine published two opinions examining the attitude of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel towards refugees and asking if she is on the ‘right side of history’.

In the first, Vivien Pertusot (head of the Brussels Office of the French Institute of International Relations) argues that the German Chancellor “made a unilateral decision to welcome refugees, without consulting with her European partners”.

“Yet she did not truly weigh the impact of her words and their consequences on countries which would serve as transit nations. After all, we know it is difficult to go directly from Syria to Germany without crossing any borders.”

Vivian adds:

“In the refugee crisis, Germany has given priority, in a way, to humanitarian interests, placing the necessity of taking action, above the European consensus.”

Though he cautions that economic self-interest may have driven the decision, with Germany’s long term need for an increased labour force overriding “the colossal short-term investments required in welcoming hundreds of thousands of unexpected refugees”.

“It is true that making an emergency decision based on community-wide consultation would probably have been impossible … But Merkel’s decision has accentuated divergences between governments. She brought forward an open and virulent debate on a subject that goes to the heart of a fundamental issue: what society do Europeans want?”

The second opinion comes from Thibaut Jaulin (Professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies). He sees the Chancellor’s action as “a concrete response to a moral obligation … to provide assistance to any population fleeing armed conflict”.

“Angela Merkel is on the ‘right side of history’ when she recognizes that Syria is a country located in direct proximity to Europe. She makes a distinction between Syrian – and eventually Afghan or Iraqi – refugees who are fleeing war torn countries, and the illegal migrants, often from Africa. Despite perceptions by many Europeans, the number of illegal migrants has not grown significantly.”

He too recognises economic motives behind the welcome: “young, healthy Syrian refugees can be an asset” in a country experiencing a demographic decline.

While the German Chancellor “did not convince her European partners to follow suit… she pushed for an agreement … [that] makes Turkey Europe’s policeman”. Thibaut describes the agreement as “a sham … based on a bookkeeping trick wherein Europe commits to accepting a certain number of refugees if they do not enter illegally through Greece”.

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