Angela Merkel Changes Tune and Sets Refugee Quota After Election Victory
German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed this Monday to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter Germany each year to 200,000. While most of Merkel’s party members seem confident that the agreement will be actualized before Christmas, national and international audiences view the decision as a “concession to her Bavarian partners”, rather than a change in Merkel’s personal stand.
The decision came after 10 hours of talks in Berlin, where Merkel’s party Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party, Christian Social Union (CSU) with its leader Horst Seehofer sought to finalize the classification of the policy. The CSU aimed to call it an obergrenze, or “upper limit” but both parties opted for a softer tone, adding the total intake “shall not exceed 200,000 a year”, according to the Guardian.
The policy allows refugees beyond the quota to come in but only if other refugees already in Germany leave, stated German news outlet, Deutsche Welle.
Stressing the importance of freedom and the global duty to provide a corresponding environment, Merkel has been frequently challenged by the question of national security. The discrepancy between strong governmental limitations on citizens and the simultaneous maintainability of their freedom has often led to moral impasses during the German refugee crisis.
The integration of non-German citizens into this dilemma has fueled a national indignation that propelled German nationalist party, Alternative for Germany (AFD) to sudden success. Hans-Olaf Henkel, a former member of the AFD, described Merkel’s tendency to save various global issues as a calculated sacrifice of political and economic stability within German borders.
“Lately since the social democratic government in Sweden closed its borders and Merkel opened the borders for refugees, Germany has ousted our favorite exemplary Scandinavians as a moral supremacy in the world,” said Henkel in a guest op-ed, drawing comparison to the Swedish government whom took in the largest number of refugees amongst European nations in 2015.
Today, even moderate politicians such as Alexander Dobrindt, former Minister of Transport, take a clear stand on Germany’s moral considerations.
“There is no right for everybody to pursue a better life in Germany,” he stated.
While this opinion could be considered rather ignorant of an increasingly globalized society, there are other groups raising their voices on the current issue. Interviews with refugees reveal the situation in Germany is not sustainable anymore.
“If the situation continues, they will be faced with a big problem,” stated one refugee to Focus in reference to long registration processes and critical living standards in refugee homes.
When Merkel first presented her plan for the refugee crisis in March, she made clear that a cut-off was the least desirable option. Instead, she suggested alternative solutions such as European government “hotspots” at European borders, and setting incentives for Turkey, in the form of alleviating visa policies for Turkish citizens or financial support, to achieve their compliance with the EU. Those suggestions are now part of the agreement.
Still, Merkel’s avoidance of the term “upper limit” or obergrenze, does not only mirror her personal disposition, but also the complexity of the legal implications. Neither the German Constitution and its asylum law, nor the Geneva Convention set quantitative limitations on the acceptance of refugees.
Yet, Merkel and Seehofer found a loophole to justify their agreement. The new coalition will reinforce deportations, extend the list of safe countries of origin to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, deny access to families of refugees with limited protection and maintain German border controls. They also integrated an exception: in case the limitation cannot be met by international or national developments, the government will be able to pass appropriate adjustments.
Therefore, the agreement might serve to alleviate public frustration, as well as keep a general Willkommenskultur, or “welcome culture.” After all, Merkel herself defines the reasons for the new limitation as humanitarian, so at least to her, the agreement can be considered a mediation of both freedom and security.