As Ger­many heads to the polls this month, Europe is fac­ing even greater prob­lems than Amer­ica

New York Post - - CULTURE CLUB - DOU­GLAS MUR­RAY Dou­glas Mur­ray is the au­thor of “The Strange Death of Europe: Im­mi­gra­tion, Iden­tity, Is­lam” (Blooms­bury), out now.

IF you think Amer­ica feels slightly un­sta­ble at present, re­lax. At least you’re not Euro­pean.

Cur­rently, Bri­tain is still go­ing through the fall­out from last year’s Brexit vote. Ayear af­ter that shock re­sult, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May­put her­self be­fore the pub­lic to strengthen her hand in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Brus­sels. In their wis­dom, the Bri­tish pub­lic re­sponded by­clob­ber­ing May­i­na­gen­eral elec­tion that stripped her party of its ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment.

Mean­while, France has just seen the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in which nei­ther of the two main par­ties even made it through to the fi­nal round. In­stead, the coun­try chose young leader Em­manuel Macron, who had to form his party af­ter be­ing elected. All this is against the usual back­drop of a eu­ro­zone stag­ger­ing from cri­sis to cri­sis and a po­lit­i­cal elite that cel­e­brates when the far-right Aus­trian Free­dom Party “only” re­ceives 46 per­cent of the votes for the pres­i­dency.

In the midst of all this chaos, one coun­try and one woman ap­pear to be stand­ing strong: Ger­many and its chan­cel­lor, An­gela Merkel.

On Sept. 24, the Ger­mans will go to the polls. These are the first fed­eral elec­tions since 2013, and quite a lot has hap­pened since then.

The minds of Ger­man vot­ers will be on many things. They will be think­ing about how to sta­bi­lize the eu­ro­zone, the 19 Euro­pean Union coun­tries that have adopted the euro as their com­mon­cur­rency. They will also be won­der­ing how to stop other coun­tries from fol­low­ing Bri­tain in ex­it­ing the EU. Dur­ing that process, Ber­lin (along with Paris) will have to pull off the dou­ble trick of per­suad­ing peo­ple that the build­ing is not on fire and re­as­sur­ing them that the fire doors are in any case jammed. But one more thing also hov­ers over these elec­tions.

It is now seven years since Chan­cel­lor Merkel told her coun­try in a speech in Pots­dam that “mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism has ut­terly failed.” It had been a mis­take, she ad­mit­ted, to think that the guest work­ers in­vited into the coun­try since WWII would leave. They did not leave. They stayed. Since then, thanks to grow­ing im­mi­gra­tion from the de­vel­op­ing world, par­al­lel so­ci­eties have formed in Ger­many. All of which was a damn­ing, un­prece­dented ad­mis­sion by the chan­cel­lor. But then in 2015 she did some­thing even more un­prece­dented and with far more damn­ing con­se­quences. Hav­ing ad­mit­ted that mass im­mi­gra­tion into her coun­try had been a disas­ter when it had been at a rel­a­tive low point, she opened up her coun­try’s bor­ders to bring in a his­tor­i­cally un­prece­dented num­ber of mi­grants. Dur­ing 2015 up to 1.5 mil­lion eco­nomic mi­grants and asy­lum seek­ers from Africa, the Mid­dle East and Far East en­tered Ger­many, adding an ex­tra 2 per­cent to the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion in just one year. Merkel’s ac­tions spurred a cri­sis across the en­tire con­ti­nent. In the days and months fol­low­ing her uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion, she and her col­leagues at­tempted to bully other Euro­pean lead­ers to take on a share of the prob­lem she had pre­sented them with. Some sup­ported her. Oth­ers bailed. As I ar­gue in my lat­est book “The Strange Death of Europe: Im­mi­gra­tion, Iden­tity, Is­lam,” there are spe­cific lo­cal and his­tor­i­cal rea­sons why the Ger­man chan­cel­lor did what she did in Au­gust 2015. But she also ex­ac­er­bated an im­mi­gra­tion chal­lenge which threat­ens the whole fu­ture of a con­ti­nent. Any cul­ture would find it hard to ac­com­mo­date the rapid move­ment of so many peo­ple. But for it to hap­pen at the same time that Europe is suf­fer­ing from such a weight of his­tor­i­cal guilt, fa­tigue and lack of self-be­lief makes it all but im­pos­si­ble. The sit­u­a­tion Merkel iden­ti­fied as a fail­ure in 2010 was turned into a disas­ter by that same leader dur­ing her sub­se­quent term in of­fice.

Nat­u­rally, like other lead­ers across Europe, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment oc­ca­sion­ally rec­og­nizes it must do some­thing about this. Its main an­swer is to oc­ca­sion­ally talk tough about the prob­lem. Like the politicians of Swe­den and other coun­tries, it even oc­ca­sion­ally sug­gests that it will start de­port­ing the hun­dreds of thou­sands of il­le­git­i­mate asy­lum seek­ers who (by the EU’s own fig­ures) should never have en­tered Europe in 2015. But the words “horse,” “gate,” “shut” and “bolted” are on ev­ery­body’s minds, even when not on their lips.

In re­gional elec­tions last Septem­ber, Merkel’s party was se­verely pun­ished by the elec­torate who elected the anti-im­mi­gra­tion Al­ter­na­tive for Deutsch­land party to the coun­try’s re­gional assem­blies. More­over, the AfD was just three years old when it beat Merkel’s own party into third place in her own con­stituency. The chan­cel­lor sub­se­quently gave what was re­ported as an “apol­ogy,” say­ing that Ger­many should have been bet­ter pre­pared for the 2015 cri­sis. In re­al­ity, this was no apol­ogy at all.

With the rise of politicians like Geert Wilders in Hol­land and Ma­rine le Pen in France, there were those who pre­dicted a drub­bing for Merkel this year. But both Wilders and Le Pen un­der-per­formed in their na­tional polls ear­lier this year. The AfD is also strug­gling to break through, and it ap­pears that the Ger­man peo­ple al­ready ex­pressed their anger last year. This year they look set to main­tain the sta­tus quo. A re­cent poll showed most Ger­mans (63 per­cent) now to be sat­is­fied with the job the Chan­cel­lor is do­ing.

It was Hi­laire Bel­loc who fa­mously gave the ad­vice: “Al­ways keep ahold of nurse/For fear of find­ing some­thing worse.” The Ger­man peo­ple — sur­vey­ing the con­ti­nent around them — are most likely to hold on. The re­al­iza­tion that nurse is part of the prob­lem may have to wait for an­other day.

From top: Ger­many’s An­gela Merkel, the UK’s Theresa May and France’s Em­manuel Macron are all feel­ing the heat of Euro­pean un­rest.

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