Only thing Merkel can be blamed for is that she promised to deal with the crisis, saying that they can handle it. When it became clear that the migration crisis was running out of control, the German government faced a wave of criticism.
According to recent polls, about 40 percent of Germans believe that Angela Merkel must step down. The rating of the center-right CDU/CSU bloc she leads has slumped to a record low. How can the migration crisis influence Merkel’s political future and the balance of power in Germany? How do various political forces plan to settle this crisis? Vladislav Belov, Head of the Center for German Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, talks on these and other issues with www.valdaiclub.com
“I wouldn’t exaggerate Merkel’s problem. It’s true that her rating has fallen and her chances for reelection, or even nomination, for the post of federal chancellor in 2017 have plummeted,” Vladislav Belov said. However, he added that Merkel is not the sole ruler of Germany but is the head of a coalition government.
The only thing she can be blamed for is that she promised to deal with the crisis, saying that they can handle it. “But even in this case she did not contradict the constitution, or more precisely Article 16а, which can be interpreted as saying that Germany should accept everyone who crosses its border and asks for asylum,” Belov said.
When it became clear that the migration crisis was running out of control, the German government faced a wave of criticism. According to Belov, though, this is a positive factor in German politics. “In Russia, the word ‘criticism’ has a negative connotation, while in Germany it refers to a search for a joint solution, when one side criticizes the other, regardless of whether an individual or a party is the intended target. Such criticism is aimed at finding a solution, at scrutinizing the situation and steps that have been taken,” the expert said.
All parties have their own vision of a solution to the migration crisis, both within Germany and at the EU level. The ruling coalition comprising the CDU/CSU bloc and the Social Democratic Party of Germany have recently coordinated a list of measures that should ease the refugee crisis.
Belov said that the most radical solutions to the problem have been proposed by the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU). One of them provides for limiting the annual inflow of refugees to 200,000 people. According to party members, this solution would not contradict Article 16а, which does not stipulate the upper limit for the number of refugees.
“The Bavarians point out that neither the Geneva Convention [relating to the status of refugees], nor the related EU charters say that such a limit or quota cannot be set. They refer to the experience of the United States, which has strict rules on the number of refugees that can be granted refugee status every year,” Belov said.
The CSU also believes that refugees must return to their home countries after the end of hostilities, which became the root cause for their inflow into Europe in the first place. This decision was put forth by Merkel herself, who recalled that 70 percent of refugees from the former Yugoslavia who fled the country in the 1990s eventually returned home.
But only about 350,000 people entered Germany 20 years ago, whereas the current figures are much larger. Despite these alarming statistics, the CDU expects two-thirds of these people to return to their home countries or at least go to Turkey, with which Germany is in negotiations on the issue.
According to Belov, the difference of opinions in Germany’s ruling coalition is not dramatic, with the only exception being the annual quota. “Labor Minister Andrea Nahles has said that benefits will be cut for those migrants who don’t want to integrate in the German society politically, socially or economically, and that German authorities would consider their deportation,” the expert said.
Germany’s attitude toward migration is becoming more austere. “This new response, however, does not imply police control but instead means that refugees should be considered as refugees rather than social or labor migrants,” Belov said.
He believes that the migration crisis, though quite real, is also controllable. “Control of the migration crisis is gradually growing stronger and more constructive. And the most important thing is that the process has started,” Belov concluded.