France hor­ror brings ma­jor cross­roads in Europe’s refugee cri­sis

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MICHAEL GOLD­FARB

NEVER WASTE a cri­sis.

This dic­tum of shrewd politi­cians every­where has been en­thu­si­as­ti­cally im­ple­mented by Europe’s grow­ing clique of na­tion­al­ist politi­cians since the sum­mer, as mi­grants from Africa and then refugees from the civil wars of the Mid­dle East be­gan to ar­rive in the EU in record num­bers. An es­ti­mated 800,000 have ar­rived so far this year.

They have used the mi­gra­tion cri­sis to strengthen them­selves elec­torally — most re­cently in Poland, where a Euroscep­tic, right-wing gov­ern­ment re­placed a pro-Europe cen­tre-right one. Marine Le Pen’s Na­tional Front has rid­den fears about im­mi­grants to make po­lit­i­cal gains in tra­di­tional So­cial­ist Party re­gions in north­ern France.

Then came Fri­day the 13th in Paris.

The hard right in Europe is go­ing to ride the wave of anger cre­ated by the atroc­i­ties that shook the world.

The dead were still be­ing counted when Poland’s new For­eign Min­is­ter, Kon­rad Szy­man­ski, told a press con­fer- ence in War­saw: “The at­tacks mean the ne­ces­sity of an even deeper re­vi­sion of the Euro­pean pol­icy to­wards the mi­grant cri­sis.”

Poland would no longer ac­cept refugees with­out “se­cu­rity guar­an­tees”, Mr Szy­man­ski added. What guar­an­tees might sat­isfy his gov­ern­ment he did not say.

But even be­fore the Paris at­tacks, any kind of Euro­pean con­sen­sus on the refugee sit­u­a­tion was prov­ing elu­sive. In a clas­sic case of bad tim­ing, just as the at­tacks in Paris were just get­ting un­der way, Ger­man tele­vi­sion showed an in­ter­view with Chan­cel­lor

Un­der fire: Merkel An­gela Merkel, in which she de­spaired at the dif­fi­culty in find­ing “a way to share the bur­den fairly” in Europe.

The in­ter­view may have been granted to re­but the grow­ing per­cep­tion in Ger­many that the Chan­cel­lor has for the first time in her re­mark­able ca­reer mis­judged the mood of her peo­ple with her call for Ger­many to be gen­er­ous and take in as many as 800,000 refugees.

Cer­tainly, she has mis­judged the mood of her Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union party col­leagues. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schäu­ble, discussing the sit­u­a­tion last week, quipped, “avalanches can be trig­gered when a some­what care­less skier heads down the hill, shift­ing just a lit­tle bit of snow”.

The re­mark was widely in­ter­preted as be­ing a crit­i­cism of Mrs Merkel. This in turn led to head­lines about a CDU coup against the leader.

It has been a whiplash six months for the Chan­cel­lor. In the spring, as the Greek debt cri­sis reared up again, she was com­pared to Hitler in that coun­try over her hard line on debt re­pay­ments.

In the event, Greece ac­cepted an­other dose of bit­ter medicine and, in Ger­many and else­where, she was ac­knowl­edged as the most pow­er­ful per­son in Europe.

Late in the sum­mer, as the refugee and mi­grant crises be­came acute, a crys­tal­liz­ing mo­ment ar­rived: pho­to­graphs of the body of two-year-old Ay­lan al-Kurdi, drowned, face down on a Turk­ish beach, flashed around the world.

Mrs Merkel im­me­di­ately spoke out in favour of tak­ing in refugees, and com­mit­ted Ger­many to tak­ing in 800,000 peo­ple flee­ing Syria and Iraq. The Chan­cel­lor was no longer a Hitler fig­ure im­pos­ing her will on Europe’s weak­est na­tion, now she was be­ing por­trayed as Europe’s mer­ci­ful an­gel.

But very quickly, right-wing, na­tion­al­ist politi­cians be­gan to push back and Mrs Merkel looked a lot less pow­er­ful.

A Ger­man plan with French back­ing to have EU mem­ber states take in refugees in pro­por­tion to their pop­u­la­tion size im­me­di­ately ran into prob­lems.

Hun­gary’s Prime Min­is­ter, Vik­tor Or­bán, a right-wing na­tion­al­ist politi­cian of the old school, be­came the voice of the re­fuseniks. “They are over­run­ning us,” he said. “They’re not just bang­ing on the door, they’re break­ing the doors down on top of us. Hun­gary is un­der threat and so is Europe.”

Mr Or­bán made his re­marks shortly af­ter a meet­ing among min­is­ters from the Czech Repub­lic, Slo­vakia and Hun­gary, at which the quota plan was dis­cussed. Only three weeks had passed since the young boy drowned.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.