We may have finally reached a tipping point in Germany this week. It’s hard to say for sure, but something has changed in the halls of power over there. Whether it’s the gang violence related to the Syrian immigrants, the mass sexual assaults or the rising crime levels, it sounds like Angela Merkel has finally heard the outraged cries of her citizens and might be coming around to facing reality. In a statement released this weekend, she finally conceded that perhaps all of these new arrivals should turn around and go home once the war in Syria winds down. (Sydney Morning Herald)

German chancellor Angela Merkel says refugees will return to their homeland, once the war is over. Photo: Fredrik von Erichsen

Merkel said 70 percent of the refugees who fled to Germany from former Yugoslavia in the 1990s had returned.

Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, has threatened to take the government to court if the flow of asylum seekers is not cut.

Merkel urged other European countries to offer more help “because the numbers need to be reduced even further and must not start to rise again, especially in spring”.

This set of remarks featured a decided shift in long term strategy compared to what we heard from Merkel through the fall and early winter. In addition to the “go home” comments she suggested that other countries needed to carry their fair share of the burden in the spring when better weather will doubtless result in more pedestrian traffic looking to enter the country. On top of that, she repeated calls from other leaders for the border nations of the EU – particularly Greece – to step up enforcement and stem some of the tide.

But beyond that, it’s the choice of terminology Merkel is employing which seems to have shifted. In numerous speeches before this we heard her referring to the new arrivals as “immigrants” and talking about the need for them to assimilate into the culture. The word immigrant wasn’t to be found in this conversation, returning to calling them refugees instead. There was no talk of their adopting the culture of their new homes, but rather a sense of temporary travelers in need of shelter until they can go back where they belong.

Merkel isn’t just getting pressure from the streets on this. Opposition leader Frauke Petry went to the press earlier this week and suggested that border security should consider a significantly more, er… abrupt method of dealing with border jumpers.

AfD leader Frauke Petry told the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper that Germany needed to reduce the influx through agreements with neighbouring Austria and a reinforcement of the EU’s external borders.

But she also said it should not be shy about turning people back and creating “border protection installations” – and that border guards should, if necessary, shoot at migrants trying to enter illegally.

Oddly enough, Petry is probably creating some space for Merkel to move to the right without seeming too “radical” to the more progressive base in her country. When you’ve got somebody from the other party suggesting they simply start shooting the Syrians as they arrive on the shores of Greece or try to sneak into Germany, a suggesting of sending them home when the bombing runs end probably sounds a lot more reasonable.

Germany and the rest of the EU have been engaged in a wide ranging social experiment for some time now. The milk of human kindness seems to have taken on a sour taste as they’ve grappled with the reality of trying to absorb a massive influx of people coming from a very different culture with radically divergent values. The recent terror attacks probably didn’t do much to sweeten the deal either. Common sense may be making a comeback in the European Union in 2016. What remains now is for them to realize they need to help end the conflict in Syria sooner rather than later so they can show their new “guests” the door before there’s an open revolt.

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