Key coalition partner rejects Merkel’s stance on refugees

Undeterred by recent murders committed by Muslim refugees, Angela Merkel stands fully behind her decision to admit more than 1 million Syrian refugees. She made this clear in a recent press conference the theme of which was “we can still do this.”

But Merkel’s key coalition partner, Horst Seehofer the premier of Bavaria, today rejected this view. “‘We can do this’ – I cannot, with the best will, adopt this phrase as my own,” Seehofer said following a meeting of his Christian Social Union party, the Bavarian counterpart of Merkel’s party.

Seehofer explained:

“The problem is too big for that and the attempts at a solution thus far too unsatisfactory. Restrictions on immigration are a condition for security in this country.”

Bavaria has been hard hit by immigration-related violence. The killing spree by the Iranian-German took place at a shopping center in Munich. Bavaria was also the site of the attack by a Syrian asylum seeker at a music festival in Ansbach and the ax and knife attack by an Afghan asylum seeker that occurred on a train.

It wasn’t until the day after the Munich attack that Merkel got around to talking about it. President Obama beat her by 17 hours.

Merkel seems tone deaf and out of touch on this issue. In her recent statement, she insisted:

Despite the great unease these events inspire, fear can’t be the guide for political decisions. It is my deep conviction that we cannot let our way of life be destroyed.

But Germans are coming to realize that mass immigration from Muslim countries threatens their way of life. Perhaps the best evidence of this can be found not in the recent killings as horrifying as they are, but rather in the spate of sexual assaults, most notably the spree that took place in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

The Daily Mail claims that Merkel’s premiership is now “hanging by a thread.” I don’t know whether that is so, but her popularity — which had plummeted only to revive following the Brexit — is sure to take a hit given the recent violence.

The Daily Mail cites a poll in which 83 per cent of Germans saw immigration as their nation’s biggest challenge – twice as many as a year ago. Surely a big portion of that 83 percent agrees with Merkel’s Bavarian ally that her “solution thus far [is] too unsatisfactory.”

Indeed, Internet pollster YouGov found that 48 percent of Germans do “not agree at all” that Germany can manage the refugee influx and another 18 percent said they “slightly disagree.” Taken together, that’s two-thirds of Germans. Less than a quarter of respondents had confidence in Merkel’s “we can do this” mantra.

Merkel has always seemed pragmatic and clear-headed. Why did she commit Germany to taking in such a vast number of Syrian refugees?

Last year, I tried to answer the question this way:

I don’t doubt that there is a humanitarian component to Merkel’s decision, and in some respects her willingness to take in so many refugees is a feel good story. But keep in mind that Germany has an economic interest in bringing in young workers, and that this interest isn’t mirrored in many other EU member states.

Germany faces a severe labor shortage, both short-term and long-term. A study by the Robert Bosch foundation suggested that Germany’s workforce could shrink by about 6 million by 2030.

I also wonder whether Merkel really grasped what the sudden influx of a million or more Muslim refugees would mean for Germany. It’s fair to ask whether Merkel understands Islamism. Perhaps her model was based on the Turkish immigrants of the past. But they came from a basically secular nation at a time when Islamist extremism wasn’t nearly the force it has become.

Jens Spahn, deputy finance minister and a senior member of Merkel’s conservatives, seemed to confirm this explanation. He admits: “My impression is that we all underestimated a year ago what would come upon us with this big refugee and migration movement.”

But not “all” did. In his comments today, Seehofer said that ““all our predictions [about the impact of Merkel’s policies] have been proven right.”

In all likelihood, Seehofer’s assessment that Merkel’s government continues to “underestimate” what’s in store will also be proven right.

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