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Opinion: We can do this!

Engel Dagmar Kommentarbild App
Dagmar Engel
August 31, 2016

First, we discovered the idea of a "welcome culture," then came the doubts: "Can we do this?" A year after Germany started welcoming refugees, Dagmar Engel says: "Yes, we can."

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel Besuch BAMF Außenstelle
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. v. Jutrczenka

And you too will do this! You too will once again take apart the phrase of the year, even though everyone has already written or said something about it, you included. Even if you are one of the ones whose blood the phrase makes boil. You will do this!

We will do this, just like everything else we've already done.

For example, registering around a million refugees. Even if it seemed impossible for months. We've now learned that we Germans completely overestimated our bureaucratic brilliance. But after the utter chaos of the winter, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has hired thousands of new employees to ensure that the organization becomes much more efficient - by the end of the year, says its head.

Most refugees have now left Germany's gyms and are living in municipalities all over the country. In July, it was agreed by the government, the states and the municipalities that a further seven billion euros would be directed to the municipalities. After all, the German state had a surplus of over 18 billion euros in the first half of this year – so in economic terms, it can be done.

Over the past 12 months, we've achieved a steep learning curve. We witnessed a phase of extreme and lasting helpfulness. At the same time, we have faced the fact that we Germans are anything but perfect. We had to accept that in this rich and secure country there are people with major, loss-related anxieties and others who exploit these for their own reactionary political agenda.

At least we are now facing this conflict - whereas generally Germans have been reluctant to enter the debate. There has not been so much difference of opinion in this country for a long time. And that's a good thing: democracy means disagreement, it means struggling over decisions. We have left the comfort zone of "eternal consensus" - this is the first condition for growth.

Engel Dagmar Kommentarbild App
Dagmar Engel, head of DW's parliamentary studios

The great majority of us have finally abandoned the idea of an ethnic German nation state, which was always an illusion anyway. Immigration in its many forms has existed in Germany since the state's very foundation.

Time will judge Germany's refugee policy. Germans will be remembered for having the courage to help refugees in need, despite all the reservations, fears, and difficulties involved. They will be remembered for seizing the moment in 2015, for starting to write a success story. They will be remembered for doing this!

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