Is being a woman, scientist, daughter of a Protestant pastor, who grew up under the terror of totalitarianism, what it takes to have the instinct of the right decisions in difficult times?Merkel is right – both morally and legally – on refugees:
_ there should be no upper limit to the human right of asylum. On the contrary, her challenge, if anything, is that pretty much every other European leader is wrong. That is the real tragedy._The choice is ultimately between doing what is necessary to save lives, or turning away. On this particular decision, Merkel stands tall above her European counterparts. Sadly, she stands almost alone.In 1957 John F Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts, published the pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage. In it he describes _those rare instances when politicians should go against what’s popular and the opinion of their party, and take instead brave action.
The politicians profiled in the book all have one thing in common: they put their careers on the line to do what they felt was right._
---Angela Merkel’s stance on refugees means she stands alone against catastrophe | Alberto NardelliLess than 10 weeks ago, Europe’s front pages were dominated by the photo of a dead Syrian child who drowned as his family attempted to reach the shores of Greece. Once the tears dried, many of those same newspapers went back to their usual ways. The noble words of politicians were not followed by action. “Europe has a duty to help refugees – but not in our country” is still the prevalent view among most Europeans.But one voice has not faltered during Europe’s refugee crisis: Angela Merkel’s. “We will cope,” she insists. As criticism grew louder, her popularity dipped to its lowest levels since 2011. For the first time in a long time, her position as chancellor no longer seemed impregnable. But the beat didn’t change: Wir schaffen das – “We will cope.” To the critics at home, as the number of asylum seekers swelled over the summer, she said Germany would continue to welcome refugees. Otherwise, she argued, it would “not be my country”.But the chancellor’s resolve didn’t assuage the unease of her own party. Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union, the Christian Democratic Union’s Bavarian sister party, said that it was a mistake to welcome so many asylum seekers. He even threatened to take legal action. Some commentators ventured so far as to say that the end of the Merkel era was in sight.They were wrong, again. After weeks of speculation and arguments, Germany’s coalition partners reached an agreement on a refugee policy last week. Like many previous deals struck by Merkel during her 10 years as chancellor, it was a compromise. She dropped plans for transit zones, a win for the Social Democrats. To placate the right wing of her party, she committed to speeding up procedures for deporting economic migrants, while some refugees will have to wait two years before their family members can enter the country. But these are details. On her most important principle, Merkel stood firm: there will be no upper limit to the number of refugees that Germany can take. Her “refugees are welcome” policy is intact.The choice is ultimately between doing what is necessary to save lives or turning the other wayMuch has been made of Merkel’s near obsession with detail and political calculation. A verb – “merkeln” – was even coined to describe her perceived indecisiveness. However, behind a decade of compromises there is one common thread that often goes unnoticed: in the end, Merkel gets what she wants and is less compromising on what matters most. This summer, during negotiations between Greece and its European creditors, Merkel was portrayed as the pantomime villain of that particular story. But as two European government officials put it to me after a deal was finally struck: “At the end of the day, if Merkel had agreed with Wolfgang Schäuble, her finance minister, Greece would have left the euro and there wouldn’t have been a deal.”In July, the bigger picture was saving the euro. Today, the bigger picture is about how Europe deals with a humanitarian crisis in which hundreds of thousands of people have fled conflict and misery in search of refuge. We can have an endless debate about what should be done, or what could have been done, in Syria itself. Likewise, focusing aid and help on neighbouring camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Lebanon where there are more than four million Syrian refugees, is a valid and just argument, and should be part of any plan.However, we cannot turn back time nor can we fast-forward years into the future – and one inescapable fact remains: there are hundreds of thousands of refugees in Europe. They are here now and they will keep coming. The hundreds of thousands are fleeing war, they leave home to embark on perilous, often fatal, journeys because their home is no more. And no fence, wishful thinking or amount of aid money alone will change this.The choice is ultimately between doing what is necessary to save lives, or turning away. On this particular decision, Merkel stands tall above her European counterparts. Sadly, she stands almost alone.Let’s imagine for a moment that Merkel loses this argument and is prematurely ousted from power. Germany has received almost half of all asylum-seeking Syrians in Europe this year: 243,721 since January – more than 12 times the number that Britain will take over the next five years. What would happen if Germany suddenly adopted Britain’s approach – or Hungary’s, and started to erect fences to keep refugees out? Or took the position of governments in eastern Europe that want to welcome only Christian refugees? Hundreds of thousands of people would be left stranded in no-man’s land across Europe short of aid, food and shelter. A crisis would rapidly become a catastrophe.At its very essence, the challenge that Europe faces is about the place that it wants to occupy in a global world. Modern Europe was founded on the ashes of world war and postwar suffering and uncertainty. Not long ago the citizens of many of those same countries that today are shutting their doors were the ones escaping persecution and seeking refuge. Europe was built on principles and values such as freedom of movement, solidarity, peace, prosperity and human dignity; it is meant to be united in diversity, enriched by different cultures, traditions and languages. At the very moment Europe should come together, too many of its member states have become insular and, in pandering to anti-immigrant sentiments, are betraying those founding ideas. In this regard, Merkel is the exception.The fork in the road in front of Europe’s leaders is about the purpose of their power. In 1957 John F Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts, published the pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage. In it he describes those rare instances when politicians should go against what’s popular and the opinion of their party, and take instead brave action. The politicians profiled in the book all have one thing in common: they put their careers on the line to do what they felt was right.Politics fixates on the daily twists and turns of polling and approvals, of Twitter trends and digital soundbites. Short-term tactics dominate – and there is rarely the time or space for longer-term vision and boldness. But if we take a longer view and think back through history, at what fills its pages, and at how today’s events will be recounted decades from now, it is not the highs and lows of polling that will be remembered. True leadership is about taking risks when the issue at stake is so great.The current refugee crisis has been labelled as the largest since the end of the second world war. We have been told it’s the greatest challenge Europe has faced since the cold war. But the response of Europe’s leaders hasn’t matched that impressive billing. Some have argued that it was Merkel’s welcoming approach to refugees that opened the floodgates. That this is a tragedy of her own making. Such an argument is not only wrong, its proponents fail to explain what the alternative is.Merkel is right – both morally and legally – on refugees: there should be no upper limit to the human right of asylum. On the contrary, her challenge, if anything, is that pretty much every other European leader is wrong. That is the real tragedy.#merkel #europe #refugees #syria