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A last attempt

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*
Barbara Wesel
February 19, 2016

Angela Merkel didn't show it, but she was furious with Austria, which left her alone on the refugee issue. The only hope for her concept now lies in Turkey's hands. And that could go terribly wrong, writes Barbara Wesel.

Türkei Ankara Treffen zur Flüchtlingskrise Merkel
Image: Reuters/U. Bektas

Angela Merkel only has one chance left to save her idea for a European solution to the refugee crisis.

To see it through, she needs Turkey. Only if Ankara promises in March to fulfill the conditions of the EU and keep the refugees on Turkish soil will the flow slow and hope for unity be maintained.

That's a dangerous strategy. A lot can happen between this weekend and the mini-summit with Turkey expected to take place in approximately two weeks. Two weeks has become a long time in Turkey's current political situation. President Erdogan may soon have other priorities than implementing a deal with the EU to defuse the refugee crisis.

If Merkel fails, so does Europe

Those who declare the chancellor's refugee policy a failure should answer the following: What else should she have done? Should she have closed the door immediately and left Europe to fend for itself?

None of the newly anointed experts who proclaim to have always known that her policy would go south had predicted last fall that the EU would fail so spectacularly at getting its act together. It shows a lack of solidarity and humanity, for the war in Syria is becoming increasingly gruesome. All this talk about a resolution appears to be illusionary.

And the images of Turkey now throwing up walls of cement between itself and the desperate people standing on the Syrian side of the border are truly shocking. Is that really what was meant by slowing or even stopping the influx of refugees?

Porträt - Barbara Wesel
DW's Barbara WeselImage: DW/B. Riegert

Angela Merkel is trying to save what little there is left to save: the last smidgeon of solidarity in Europe. But the government in Vienna has now shown her what national interest is. A perky Chancellor Werner Faymann marched around the summit defending his upper limit on asylum applicants. To him, it's closing time for his country this year. Any new arrivals will simply be waved on through to Germany. It's a stab in the back to Angela Merkel who, until now, had seen him as an ally.

The same goes for the plans by Eastern European states to close the border between Macedonia and Greece. Vienna finds this perfectly reasonable. And the Visegrad states are sticking to their own selfish policies in any case. It was only when Italy threatened Hungary's Viktor Orban with fewer funds out of the EU coffers that Orban got excited and protested what he called "blackmail."

There is no Plan C

This whole thing is a debacle, awkward and deserving of criticism. But it's not about political games. The fact that everyone in Europe only wants something for themselves prevents those who are truly in need from receiving proper help.

Even Greece is a part of this, as Athens delayed the construction of registration centers and transit camps for so long that it was nearly too late. Now Alexis Tsipras wants agreement from other EU nations that the borders at least stay open until the next mini-summit with Turkey. Suddenly, he's afraid of the consequences of what will happen if his neighbors only pursue their own interests.

And because he doesn't seem capable of learning, he is using the chance to get his way by linking his demands with his signature to the deal with Britain. That is the last thing Europe needs.

With all of this going on, the chancellor has but one chance: she has to stay the course that she has steered from the beginning. There is no Plan C after Plan B. The chance of failure is high. But when it comes to Europe and the refugee crisis, it seems we have come to the one case in which it is safe to say that there are no alternatives.

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