The chancellor is now profiting from policies she has always fought against on a European level. Still, it will not really help her party in the upcoming state elections on March 13, says DW's Christoph Hasselbach.
Angela Merkel should really be doing everything in her power to re-open the border for refugees between Greece and Macedonia. And if that does not work, then she should have the refugees brought straight to Germany from Greece. For the refugee situation today can be well compared with last September, when thousands were stuck in Hungary and Merkel decided to take them in, in spite of the Dublin regulation and other EU rules.
The chancellor has repeatedly drummed her principles into the public:
- No cap on asylum seekers
- Fences do not help
- There must be a European solution that includes a redistribution of refugees
Others have acted
In Brussels, this firm stance increasingly isolated her, while the influx showed no signs of diminishing. Some European governments, however, had enough at some point. "It is better to act separately than to be idle together," said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Austria announced its own cap. Then several eastern EU members and Balkan countries got together and brought about the closure of the border between Macedonia and Greece. This step goes against everything Merkel has always advocated. But now the number of refugees has significantly declined - in Germany, as well. That is exactly what Merkel wanted and wants to achieve with her "European" solution, but without success.
Instead of having selfies taken with refugees, the chancellor is now advising the people at the Macedonian border to remain in Greece for the time being, saying that no one has the right to choose their country of asylum. A few weeks ago, she already caused a surprise by saying she expected Syrian refugees in Germany to return to their home country once peace has been restored there. Many people who have made sacrifices for the refugee cause are now asking themselves, "Then what is the point of integration?"
She does not want to get caught
The Social Democrat (SPD) Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has already said that the change in policy has long since taken place - although with him, no one knows whether he thinks that this is a good or a bad thing, or what his stance will be next week. Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, has also noted a change, one which he has been working toward for a while now. Merkel herself, however, gives the impression that she does not want to get caught making this U-turn. But whether she admits it or not, the policy that she has always rejected as immoral, unfeasible or harmful to Europe has now brought some relief.
It is doubtful, however, whether Merkel's Christian Democrat Union (CDU) will benefit from her stealthy reversal of policy. Right now, the refugee crisis completely dominates every election, whether or not the political position has anything to do with the migration crisis. Every vote is thus a vote on the federal government's refugee policy. That is what happened on Sunday at the state elections in Hesse: the CDU and the SPD, the government coalition partners on the federal level, suffered clear losses, while the right-wing populist AfD became the third strongest party in the state. The voters' decision can also be interpreted as follows: Had Merkel pushed through her policies in the EU, the number of refugees today would be just as high as it was in autumn.
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