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Opinion

Opinion: Merkel to parliament: refugee drama 'still depressing'

The German government is still counting on a European answer to the refugee crisis at an upcoming EU summit. But the key problem that needs solving is the war in Syria, writes DW's Naomi Conrad.

They bring news of dread, exasperation and distress: videos of bombed, burned-out houses and wounded children as well as long lists of names of people who've died during bombings. Every few days, Firas, an activist in the city of Homs, sends out these signs of life, which actually show just how little life remains in Syria - and how infuriating, how brutal and hopeless the situation continues to be.

The situation in Syria is "intolerable," Angela Merkel said in an address to Parliament on Wednesday. It is "still depressing." Instead of less pain, there is more. In lieu of even a brief cessation of hostilities - not to mention a durable ceasefire - there is ever more fighting.

A three-part European solution

The chancellor has put her chips on a three-pronged European solution: the fight against the causes of migration out of Syria and from the refugee camps in neighboring countries, better protection of EU borders and, finally, a legal, safe way for refugees to enter the EU.

Conrad Naomi Kommentarbild App

DW's Naomi Conrad

She knows that every one of these elements is a Sisyphean task. And to accomplish all of them would amount to a near miracle, as she is being expected in Brussels on Thursday and Friday by European partners who don't want to be partners - who would rather build fences and fortify borders than to take in refugees. Even at home within her own political party, these voices are growing louder by the day.

Money was promised months ago for schools, education and the basic necessities to care for the refugees in neighboring countries. And the first tranches have finally flowed - months, if not years, after the organizations helping the refugees began begging for money. Hotspots are being built, refugees registered, and aid convoys promised.

No solution to the refugee crisis without peace in Syria

Yet that accomplishes very little if the biggest challenge goes unaddressed: long-lasting peace in Syria. As long as murder continues unabated, people will flee. They will duck under fences and board tiny boats that aren't seaworthy.

Is there a way - any way - that the numerous parties in Syria and their supporters - from Assad to Iran, Russia, Turkey, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army - could be forced to make peace and to come together to fight against the self-declared Islamic State?

I don't know. But I hope that others do. Otherwise, these terrible news reports from Firas and others that keep appearing on my mobile phone via What's App will keep coming - provided the activists survive the coming days and weeks.

And if the killing continues and people keep on being forced to flee, will we eventually close the borders and look the other way as we point to the limits of our willingness to help and our capacity to take in people? There are quite a few signs of that.

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