GERMANY IN DEPTH: pt. II – Merkel’s refugee crisis

Part II: Refugees and Merkel's eventual undoing

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In this second installment of his in depth three part series, FRN guest analyst Thomas Trautzsch explains the foundations of Germany’s present political crisis. Continued from part I, in this second part, the we look now at Merkel’s management of the refugee crisis, and the rise of the AfD. This is a must read in terms of understanding major factors, parties, and power groups that shape Germany’s present political landscape. – J.Flores, EIC
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Analysis by Thomas Trautzsch

The Elephant in the Room – Merkel’s Refugee Policy

Yet, the main contributor to today’s witnessed increasing social distress in Germany certainly was Merkel’s other sudden over-night decision to ease the conditions for refugees coming to Germany. This is the main topic on the minds of the German voter today, whether this is justified or not. The European Union was dealing with a massive refugee crisis already before the War in Syria was breaking out. Only then, the refugees mainly came from Northern Africa, as well as Afghanistan and Libya. Every now and then this crisis was called into people’s attention for a short time, when a boat overloaded with refugees was capsizing right in front of the Italian shores near Lampedusa causing hundreds of people to drown. Then the outcry in the mainstream media was peaking for a short moment, before it went pretty much silent again, without causing major perceivable social distress in Germany. One of the reasons may have been that the EU was pressuring Italy at the time to take care of the refugees, who came over the sea, by herself and not allowing them to travel further inward into the European Mainland. Another reason for this lack of perception may have been, that a decision to politically exploit the refugee crisis and all the social problems and effects connected to it, had not been made yet by some political factions.

Whatever the reason was that triggered Merkel to make her decision, most people doubted immediately that it was merely about humanitarian help. Hence speculations about the real purpose other than humanitarian ones are entertained to this day.

1.) The Demographic Reason

Germany has a serious demographic problem. The influx of refugees after Merkel’s call was quickly reaching something between 800-thousand and 1 Million people. As soon as these numbers were reached, it could be observed that the regulation for emigration were somewhat tightened up again. The amount of additional refugee people in Germany was matching almost precisely the demographic loss of Germany’s population, which was established in the 2011 Census. The Age Pyramid Chart as well as the German population development chart below demonstrate this quite impressively. Germany’s authorities don’t even hide the fact any longer that one way to fix the problem of decreasing birth-rates is by immigration. Yet, in public political life the narrative of putting this policy under the cloak of humanitarian help is maintained to this day, even though it is increasingly falling apart.

 

Demographic Chart Germany 2011
German population development 2006 – 2016

 

2.) The Geo-Strategic Reason

At the time of Merkel’s infamous call for supported refugee immigration, the Syrian Government Army (SAA, Syrian Arab Army), started to solve some serious problems concerning their vanished strength and loyalty, as well as military education with the help of Russian and Iranian support. Merkel’s call for temporarily unrestricted immigration made it easier for a large number of young Syrian males to leave their homeland not only for reasons of war victimhood or economic and social pressure, but also to evade the compulsory Syrian Military Service. Furthermore, it was made easier for many members of the Opposition Forces and Islamist Extremist Groups like ISIS and Al-Nusra and their successors, who were and are increasingly on the losing end of the war, to evade their well-deserved punishment by the winning government forces. While the withdrawal of young potential military recruits for the Syrian Arab Army was surely calculated to be a weakening factor for the government of Bashar al-Assad, the downside of this strategic calculation certainly is the parallel immigration of potentially hazardous and extremist people into Germany. Germany, as well as other European Countries, have seen various attacks on their public lives by Islamist Extremists in most violent ways. The consequences of these are borne by the ordinary people, who, in consequence, have to cope with increased security and surveillance problems, which significantly change the awareness of their public freedoms. Re-unified Germany has been fully assimilated into the NATO sphere, to the disliking of many Germans, particularly East-Germans. Apart from the direct purpose of weakening a geo-political opponent, there are also other strategic elements, which aim at the social fabric of the German Society in the Long Term.

 

3.) The German Experiment and the Culture of German Politeness (or Political Correctness)

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The German People are generally as good-hearted and hospitable as any other people in Europe or in the world. Naturally, the idea that there is a humanitarian necessity to help war time refugees, reverberates with the majority of German Citizens. Given this fact and adding the transatlantic mainstream-medially promoted general political politeness, or rather correctness, it could be expected that an initial “Refugees Welcome Culture” was established and officially promoted, even though in the eyes of responsible strategists it may have been merely to hide the deeper strategic intentions of the entire policy. Many people were honest and serious about it. Yet, now, a few years later, the situation in Germany has significantly changed due to the social and economic effects of the mass-immigration playing out to a degree that they increasingly become recognizable and visible in many layers of German Society, which previously were unaffected. A more detailed view on that shall follow, when a future outlook on Merkel’s next legislative period is discussed. Whether or not somebody might think that the side-effects of this refugee policy were fully intended or not is not significant at the moment, because the social experiment, which Germany has been subjected to, is a reality now and it has been since Merkel did what she did. The German public has to deal with it now and the political instrumentalization of the social effects and potential problems by various factions is already in full swing.

 

Wind under the Wings of the AfD – Alternative for Germany

It is largely due to the effects of Merkel’s Migration Policy that the Party Alternative for Germany – AfD, which was previously failing to climb over the 5% threshold to make it into the Bundestag, has experienced a massive momentum. The Party was more-less founded by left-overs of the old failed Liberal Faction, which after the foreseeable collapse of the FDP in 2013 were looking for new Jobs. Also, some former parts of the East-German Christian Democrat’s faction can be found under the early members. In the years running up to 2013, the AfD’s policy was dominated by resistance against the Euro-Currency and generally against Germany’s membership in the European Union. During the Election in 2013 it already became obvious that the AfD campaign was also more subtly but recognizably targeting the right edge of the political spectrum in Germany. It can be safely assumed that this happened in anticipation of the coming events playing out in the Syrian War, which would, whether or not Russia was about to intervene, create an expected wave of refugees.

The original founding members of the AfD, like Lucke, Henkel or other involved figures like Prof. Joachim Starbatty were mostly academic capacities in economics and industry with liberal backgrounds, who increasingly got pushed out of the party in favour of more radical views. Symbolic for this was the stand-off between then party leader Frank Lucke and Frauke Petry. Lucke was complaining about an increasing right-wing and pro-russian sentiment in the party. Petry won this stand-off. Lucke and a number of other founding members were resigning right after that. Other founding members like Alexander Gauland and Frauke Petry herself and others were obviously able to arrange themselves with the new situation and accepted it probably in knowing that the votes of the middle-right part of the political spectrum was vital for their entrance the Bundestag. However, this change opened the AfD doors for the so-called “New Right” movement, of which the controversial figure of Björn Höcke is a symbolic expression as a mouthpiece. The New Right Movement operates rather silently in the background by means of figures like Götz Kubitschek and articulates itself on the AfD platform via Björn Höcke. Höcke got wide media attention due to his radical and anti-semitic remarks concerning the holocaust and the culture of remembrance connected to it in Germany. It appears that in Eastern Germany this kind of talk increasingly falls onto fertile ground, most likely as an effect of the disastrous de-Industrialization policies that took place after the re-unification, leaving entire eastern german regions economically impotent and depopulated. Furthermore, these policies had the effect that significant posts in politics and economy almost never were given to eastern-german people. 95% of the leading post in politics and management were covered by western-german people. Confronting these economically challenged areas with the effects of increasing mass migration could be foreseen to produce a more radical voting behaviour without any problems.

 

The 2017 Election

The 2017 Election in Germany was special in many ways. Never has the state of political hypocrisy of almost all parties involved in the coalition talks been so openly at display as during these elections. The election results came out in strong favour of the Christian Democrats again, but who still lost a significant 9% share of their votes compared to the last Election. Angela Merkel stated shortly after the results became official that she “wouldn’t know what she should do differently” even though the whole country is aware of the various problems concerning the mass-migration and the increasing social division in terms of wealth and living standards.

 

The Dawn

At the dawn of the general election campaigning in 2017, the regional elections in North-Rhine Westphalia are always considered as a strong indicator for the outcome of the Bundestag Elections. Northrhine-Westphalia, typically a bastion for the Social Democrats, voted Christian-Democratic this time, giving the social-democrats a huge slap in the face for their increasingly unbearable opportunism. Hannelore Kraft, the incumbent Ministerial President of NorthRhine-Westphalia, was defeated and had to leave her post in favour of the Christian top candidate Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. For the attentive observer this was absolutely foreseeable, perhaps even for the social democratic party leadership herself. Sigma Gabriel, the incumbent Vice-Chancellor and social democratic party leader at the time, was suffering massively in the popularity polls at the time, because of his various opportunistic political escapades and hipocrisies. The polls were so bad for him, that they were highly likely to adversely affect the general election results.

Hence, the social democrats began a massive staff carousel, which was only possible, because of Gabriel’s position as a Vice-Chancellor in the first place. And here is how it went: Frank-Walther Steinmeier, who was the acting Foreign Minister at the time, was nominated as a candidate for the German Presidency, which became an open position after the incumbent President Joachim Gauck, who initially got this job because Gabriel nominated him and who of course purely coincidentally, signalled his unwillingness to continue the Job due to health issues. Gabriel then appointed himself as the new Foreign Minister, a post, which in Germany is usually connected with a large popularity bonus. Gabriel in turn gave up the social democratic party leadership. The social democratic Party-Base would have to elect a new leader.

Martin Schulz, then leader of the European Parliament, was giving up his post in Brussels in order to go for the candidacy of the social democratic party leadership, which in turn would mean that he was going to be the social democrat’s top candidate for the German chancellorship, in case he won. Due to his absence to German National Politics and the general arrogance of his pursuit of supra-national EU-Politics, Schulz has never been really popular in Germany. By the time of his nomination for the social democratic party leadership, it became absolutely clear, that he was dreaming to become the German chancellor. All the SPD owned press and media immediately started a massive campaign to bolster his candidacy and to artificially fill his spine with iron. The SPD Party Base then was electing him as a party leader, and thereby effectively as a candidate for the chancellorship by a vote of 100%. Yes, I had to read it twice as well, 100%. So, if you hear or read any SPD member complaining about 70% votes in Russia, China or North-Korea, then you can easily shut him or her up, by mentioning this vote.

The observant people in Germany already knew that, if Schulz was to become the social-democrat’s top candidate for chancellorship, the same replay of the 2005, the 2009 and the 2013 elections would happen all over again and he would serve as Merkel’s victory delivery boy. Unfortunately, most people were not very vocal about that at the time, including myself.

It happened as it had to happen, and the Christian-democrats, who by far have the most homogeneous distribution of voters across the country, won basically by a large majority, even though they lost 9% of their votes as compared to the last election.

The social-democrats were severely punished for their disgusting opportunism and ended up with the worst election result in their history at 20.5%.

The Liberals were re-entering the Bundestag with a comfortable 10.7% vote, mainly thanks to a very modern campaigning style by Christian Lindner.

The biggest winner at this election was the Alternative for Germany, who became the 3rd largest parliamentary force in this election, mainly due to Merkel’s fatal Migration Policy.

The Left was making a small, but insignificant gain compared to the last election, mainly due to their state of being heavily divided internally, between a rather radical hard-liner left-wing faction, represented by Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger, and a more moderate faction around Sahra Wagenknecht and Oscar LaFontaine. Already during the election campaigning The Left attempted to make appeals to the Social Democrats to form a “Left Collective Movement” and urged them to return to their historic roots and initial values of being a worker’s party, but to no avail. Historic Parallels to the same attempts by the German Communists in the 1930s at the dawn of german fascism clearly arise. The German Communist Party, the KPD, in the 1930s tried to urge the Social-Democrats to form a “Unity Front” (Einheitsfront), which miserably failed due to the very same disgusting opportunism, that the social-democrats display today. But the Failure of today’s attempt is also partly fault of the Left herself, because of her incapability to form a unity in her own ranks and formulate homogeneous policies, which go beyond fighting effects rather than root causes.

The Greens were stable at around 9% which rose them to the occasion of participating in the first round of coalition talks. Their confinement to limited competence in social and environment questions actually leaves them in a state of insignificance, unless they can be part of a government coalition. Their incompetent leadership comprised of Kathrin Göhring-Eckhardt, Cem Özdemir and Anton Hofreiter, did not politically survive this election.

 

 

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