Germany has opened the floodgates for refugees-and others impersonating refugees-into the country, and into Europe. It is a colossal blunder that will not end well, and which reflects Germany’s political defects.
Merkel’s motives are rooted in German historical neuroses and romanticism. Germany is at pains to prove that it has overcome its Nazi and racist past. As one German historian put it:
“We want to prove that we are good people. Even if no one wants to be reminded of this, the good that we do has to be seen in relation to the crimes that we initiated,” Arnulf Baring, a conservative German historian, wrote in the Bild tabloid this week.
Furthermore, Merkel and others in German (especially in the governing and culture classes) have a romantic view of refugees, more likely to see them as waifs (like the drowned boy in the photograph that marked, and arguably contributed to, the inflection point in the refugee crisis) and women fleeing war.
Other Germans advance more pragmatic justifications: Germany is aging and in demographic decline, and needs a new supply of labor to replacing the retiring and the dying. (Many in Sweden, also very open to the refugees, make the same argument.)
All of these reasons are daft, and ignore much grittier realities. Expiating past guilt seldom results in current good. Further, the romantic view of the migrants is at odds with the reality. They are disproportionately young and male, which is to be expected: young men are more able to withstand the rigors of the trek from Syria (or Eritrea or wherever), and often have little to hold them at home. Indeed, those with the fewest attachments are likely to be misfits, meaning that the migrants are being sampled disproportionately from the less desirable part of the distribution.
Furthermore, they are likely to be fertile ground for recruiting by Islamist radicals. Already German security services are leaking that Islamist recruiters are descending on refugee centers. Germany, which already has an Islamist problem (and has had so for years: witness Mohammed Atta), has just made it that much worse.
As for the labor argument, it is a damning indictment of EU labor markets and labor mobility (and capital and goods markets for that matter). It is not as if Europe as a whole lacks idle labor, and a well-functioning labor market with mobility would match those unemployed and underemployed Europeans (e.g., young Spaniards–or Greeks!) with German employers. If the grandiose European project were in fact working, Germany wouldn’t have to import gastarbeiters qua refugees to replace its retiring workers.
Moreover, this argument reflects an ignorance of, and arguably a disdain for, Germans working in factories and services. Labor is not an undifferentiated mass. Germans are much more productive than the refugees are, and are likely to be, for generations to come. Education, skills, and yes, cultural attributes mean that the refugees are a poor substitute for German labor. Looking at it in a completely mercenary way, those who think that the refugees are going to be productive enough to be taxed enough to support a growing population of pensioners are deluding themselves.
Merkel’s actions also betray the elitism and undemocratic tendencies that characterize the EU generally and Germany in particular. This was not a decision taken after any democratic deliberation whatsoever, and many Germans are decidedly unhappy about it, especially in Bavaria and the Rhineland. (The security services are furious too: why else would they leak so soon about Islamist recruiting?)
And if many Germans are unhappy about Merkel being charitable to refugees at their expense, smaller European nations are furious because the immigrant wave will hit them as well. Denmark-long a thorn in Germany’s side-hit back immediately, stopping passenger rail traffic and closing major freeways into Germany in order to stem the immigrant tide.
German statements that other European countries should accept refugees because Germany’s resources are not unlimited add insult to injury. “Hey Germany, salve your conscience on your own Euro, not ours.” This is particularly rankling given that Germany is far richer than many of the countries it wants to take more refugees, and given that many of these countries believe that the Euro has enriched Germany at their expense. But the German leaders have a tin ear on these issues, and are apparently oblivious that this reinforces every negative perception about them and their dominance of Europe.
[The EC] notes all four countries will have to accept Dublin “and its development without exception.” They will have no say or input in amending Dublin, nor will they have any say on the Commission’s relocation plan.
“They do not take part in the adoption of any acts amending or building upon the Dublin acquis”, it says.
This is going to end very badly. It will impose a substantial economic burden on Germany (and other European nations) in the near to medium term with little or no long term benefit to compensate. It will exacerbate Europe’s jihadi problem. It will reinforce already strong beliefs that the EU is remote, dictatorial, and indifferent to popular concerns. It will drive many moderate Germans (and moderate Europeans) into the arms of the far right because they will (correctly) believe that the governing class is indifferent to the impact of the wave of immigrants on them, and will dismiss their concerns–when they are not insulting them for being racists because they don’t accept the migrants with open arms.
They don’t want to pay for Angela Merkel et al‘s masturbatory do-goodism. They are willing to help, but don’t want to be inundated by alienated and culturally alien immigrants; they want a reasonable, measured response that takes their economic and security concerns into account; and they don’t want to be dictated to by their self-appointed betters. But it looks like none of that is going to happen. It is more likely that the exact opposite will. There will be a price to be paid for that. And it is likely to be a steep one, both in Euros and in social and political peace.