Belmont Club

The Revolt Comes to Germany

The Revolt Comes to Germany
(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

It has been said a nation can have either welfare or open borders — but not both — in the same way one can have a cool air-conditioned room in a blazing desert or an open door — but not both.  It is the inequality between the outside and inside temperatures that the door is intended to preserve.


The problem of keeping the room cool while leaving the door open is now consuming Angela Merekel’s European Union as the refugee problem grows in political size.  Can the EU have no internal borders if it lacks an external one?  If there’s no way of keeping benefits in, what is the meaning of out?

That in a nutshell is the problem posed by the 21st century European migrant crisis where millions, mostly “from Muslim-majority countries of regions south and east of Europe, including Western Asia, South Asia and Africa,” have streamed into the continent.  They predominantly enter through nations bordering on the Mediterranean and Turkey yet disproportionately settle in the Northern European high-wage areas of the continent.  The resulting disruptions have fueled a succession of local rebellions from countries disproportionately affected by the inrushing tide. Each straining member country is demanding at least a partial return of control over their internal border in order to cope.

That revolt has finally reached Germany.  The New York Times writes that “the populist surge that has left Hungary, Austria and Italy threatening to close their borders to migrants has now spread to Germany, where it could even bring down Chancellor Angela Merkel and further unhinge Europe Union’s cohesion and stability.”

The mutiny is led by her own interior minister, Horst Seehofer, a former Bavarian premier with a towering stature and plenty of beer-tent charisma, who sounds more in line with the nativist forces shaping politics in neighboring countries than with his own boss.

His region found itself on the front line of the refugee crisis in 2015, when Ms. Merkel opened the borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants who poured into Bavaria.

A similar story line was playing out in southern Europe, where Italy demanded an apology from French president Emmanuel Macron “for critical comments he made about Italian immigration policy”.


Macron said Rome had acted with “cynicism and irresponsibility” by closing its ports to a migrant ship earlier this week, setting off a bitter diplomatic spat between the two countries, with Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte considering putting off a meeting with Macron due on Friday.

“We’re waiting for an apology. If we get one, we can start down a new path,” Di Maio said in a radio interview. “There’s still time to take a step back, apologize, and then start over.”

To be fair Macron was merely repeating the standard progressive line that border controls are racist, as typified by the exchange between the German non-governmental organization Mission Lifeline and Italian authorities when Rome turned away hundreds of refugees it was bringing to its ports. “Mission Lifeline retweeted the Italian minister’s statement with a sarcastic comment: ‘When Fascists give us publicity…'” to which the Ministry of the Interior responded, “we are the bosses in our own home, the good times [for you] are REALLY OVER, understood?”

Leftists branding officials fascists is not new, but officials answering back is. The novelty and force of the Italian riposte was such that Macron signaled a willingness to yield ground.  The French president endorsed the establishment of overseas holding camps for refugees, a measure which many European leftists have traditionally denounced as capitalistically heartless.

The BBC writes: “Italy and France have jointly expressed support for EU “asylum centres” to be set up in countries where many migrants begin their journeys to Europe. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Paris after a days-long row over the fate of the rescue ship Aquarius. … Mr Macron proposed building migration centers in countries of departure, including Libya, from which many people attempt a dangerous sea crossing to Europe – an idea he has raised in the past.”


Readers will recall the vituperation with which the European left denounced Australia’s policy of doing the exact same thing that Macron now proposes. Less than a year ago the Guardian sniffed that “Europe’s far right fell in love with Australia’s immigration policy … [because] their true agenda is to keep Muslims out.”

Six weeks after Tony Abbott was deposed as Australia’s prime minister in a fit of intraparty backstabbing, he arrived in London to give the Margaret Thatcher memorial lecture at Guildhall. … he praised the Iron Lady before launching into a spirited defence of Australia’s controversial immigration policy. According to Abbott, his government’s harsh measures – forcibly turning around refugee boats to prevent them landing, and sending asylum seekers to detention camps on remote Pacific islands – had ended the arrival of unwanted migrants in Australia.

That this policy might soon become Europe’s must come as a bitter irony, especially since the Australian-funded centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea are likely to be far more salubrious than the ISIS-haunted and militia-infested Libyan locales that the EU has selected. But necessity knows no law, and the New York Times explains the retreat by noting “this is serious.”

“The Bavarian conservatives are closing ranks with Europe’s populists,” said Andrea Römmele, a professor at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. “This is serious. It’s pure populism.” ..

Ms. Merkel wants to find a European solution to the migration issue at a summit meeting of the 28-country bloc in two weeks. “It is an issue that we must resolve at a European level,” Ms. Merkel said this week. “That is very important to me.”

What is likely to happen is that to preempt the growing demand for the reestablishment of national borders  — which would threaten the very existence of the EU — Merkel will expand the burgeoning system of virtual internal borders which will allow Brussels to allocate migrants according to EU social policy instead of merely letting the individual countries decide whom they want to admit.  It’s a desperate move, but these are desperate times.


The foundations of such a movement control system have already been laid by the Dublin Regulation. “The Dublin System, which consists of the Dublin Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation, which establishes a Europe-wide fingerprinting database for unauthorized entrants to the EU. The Dublin Regulation aims to “determine rapidly the Member State responsible [for an asylum claim]” and provides for the transfer of an asylum seeker to that Member State. Usually, the responsible Member State will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU.”

Since the Dublin system would dump most of the burden on countries like Italy, whose unemployment rate is already astronomical, Merkel and Macron will probably seek the power to tell other countries they must accept their share. Europe will control the internal borders in order to abolish them.

By prioritizing the preservation of the European bureaucracy even at the sacrifice of the shibboleth of refugee policy one can clearly perceive concept drift as manifested by the EU. Europe is nothing so much as a moving target; a piece of paper that is evolving from one thing into something else. “Concept drift cannot be avoided for complex phenomena that are not governed by fixed laws of nature. All processes that arise from human activity, such as socioeconomic processes, and biological processes are likely to experience concept drift.”  Nowhere is this truer than in Brussels.

The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC) … its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. While no member state has left the EU or its predecessors, the United Kingdom signified an intention to leave … the Maastricht Treaty established the European Union in 1993 and introduced European citizenship. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.


But to reach its destiny Europe must survive. Stung by Brexit and riven by disputes over refugees, the great enterprise is now teetering on the knife edge of either continental victory or possible retreat. An America mesmerized by its own illegal alien drama might profitably glance at the even even larger border saga playing out across the Atlantic.  Consider this:  if Merkel falls, does that mean Trump is again the Leader of the Free World?

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