*Before reading, understand that many of the definitions of “right,” and “left,” are used in the North American sense of the term, rather than the European.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German leader who welcomed approximately 1 million migrants into the nation, agreed to build border camps for asylum seekers and also to secure the border with Austria, in a concession to the political opposition.
Merkel had no choice to do an about-face and change her mind and policy due to the intense, and increasing, pressure from conservatives and other political affiliations over her decision to allow over 1 million migrants into the nation in a relatively short amount of time.
There Has Been An Ideological Shift Toward The Right Throughout Europe
Throughout Europe, nationalist and skeptic sentiment has spread. Following several high-profile crimes and assaults, Europeans who were once relatively welcoming, have changed their stance.
One could argue that maybe they just have a voice now or are choosing to speak their mind.
Merkel’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to bring down her coalition over the Chancellor’s migration policy, the policy that has been criticized heavily in the last three to four years (1).
Seehofer claimed that if migrants at the border don’t have any identification, or are already registered with another European country, then the Germans shouldn’t allow them in (1).
Interestingly, in comparison to the United States, the idea that a nation would have completely open borders is a radical one.
Angela Merkel Agrees To Border Camps Due To Political Pressure
For the most part, Merkel, who supports the idea of migrants freely moving across European borders without papers or restrictions, has allegedly denied the idea that there should be border controls (1).
However, yesterday night, Merkel agreed to implement border restrictions just so her government didn’t fall apart. According to The New York Times, the new policy would build camps, “transit centers,” at various points across the German border (1).
In these centers, immigrants would be screened and if upon screening, they were revealed to have already applied for asylum elsewhere, then the German officials would turn them away.
Angela Merkel, who is a conservative, has been able to keep things relatively stable against the rise of the right in Europe, as well as the populations increasingly skeptical attitude toward migrants.
While other countries in the Middle East turned away many asylum-seekers, the German government allowed more than a million to come in, and she also argued for the European Union to come together in an attempt to solve the problem.
In 2015, she said, “we can manage,” and compared their circumstances to the situation after World War II where Germany had to reconstruct and reunify the nation following the aftermath of the Third Reich.
The number of migrants coming into the country is just a fraction of what they used to be, but the will of the German people has changed.
Yesterday, Denmark announced they were increasing their acculturation efforts toward immigrants, so Germany is not alone.
Migrants, Crime Rates, And Public Perception
Germany has been struggling to absorb the ones already living in the nation. According to The Times, the “far right,” have pushed the narrative that crime rates have gone up.
The publication reports that crime rates are currently at a 25-year-low, but for some reason, the Times didn’t link to the appropriate report or study indicating the crime rate.
According to Markus Gehrsitz and Martin Ungerer in their 2015 study, there was a positive relationship between refugees and increases in crime (2).
The study indicated that a one-standard-deviation increase in the flow of migrants is associated with approximately 95 additional crimes per 100,000 people.
But, Gehristz and Ungerer note, the mean is 6,417 crimes per 1,000, so an increase of 95 crimes per another 100,000 is a 1.5% increase in crime.
It isn’t an “explosion” of crime as some would call it, but there has been an increase.
Most publications in the mainstream media report that immigration has nothing to do with crime, but there does seem to be somewhat of an effect, even if it’s not a large one.
Moreover, that is just the increase after a short period of time. Currently, there isn’t much data since the initial influx of migrants between 2014 and 2015.
In the same study, Gehristz and Ungerer explained that they “indeed (found) a positive association between larger migrant inflows and the number of non-German suspects.”
But they are “very moderate in size (2).”
Because of several devastating attacks, including the rape and killing of a 19-year-old German student, as well as the terrorist attack on the Christmas Market which killed 12 people, skeptical Germans have become less patient (1).
“Rightwing” Political Parties Formed In Response To Merkel’s Response
The issues surrounding the migrant crisis led to the formation of a right-wing political party, the Alternative For Germany, AfD, an organization that has put a lot of pressure on Merkel’s government.
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, who is the director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, said, “we are well into the final chapter of the Merkel era (1).”
Moreover, Germany has faced pressure from Trump’s administration. Trump wrote a “strongly worded letter” to Germany, and said they had been spending “too little on defense (1).”
Trump said that it was their failure because other nations in Europe look up to them as a “role model.”
Angela Merkel And Her Legacy
For the most part, Merkel has run the German government around the idea of stability and consensus. When she first took office in 2005, Europe was a lot different (1).
It was shortly after 10 formerly Communist Eastern European countries joined the European Union, and the entire continent was idealistic (1).
Merkel grew up the daughter of a pastor and a scientist and in Communist East Germany. She was not only the first woman to run Germany, but also the first Easterner (1).
While she has conducted herself in a manner that is conducive to stability, sometimes she made radical decisions, including the abolition of nuclear reactors in Germany following the Fukushima disaster in Japan (1).
In last year’s election in September, Merkel’s conservative group negotiated along with six other parties and it took several concessions to rivals to form the government (1).
During the vote, the right-wing group, the AfD, established itself as the third-strongest opposition group in the German Parliament. The rise of this group has shrunk the Social Democratic group and weakened Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (1).
Even though her party has taken a hit, she continues to try and fight for the values that she governed with for the last thirteen years. She stated on Monday, “the security of our country begins on our borders.”
According to Merkel, her decision was an action meant to strengthen German borders, but also to cooperate with the neighboring country where the refugees are coming from.
However, Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff explained the situation as being one where the European way of dealing with migrants and border movement has no longer been one characterized by consensus.
He explained, “we can’t agree on freedom of movement of refugees and immigrants; the whole system has ceased to function (1).”