I spent the weekend reading stories about the migrant crisis thinking I must be missing some key piece of information that would explain the EU reaction. Which is possible: I don’t closely follow European news. I follow it closely enough, though, to have read boatloads of articles earlier this year after the Charlie Hebdo massacre about European Jews, particularly those in France, feeling caught between the anti-semitic Muslim underclass on the one hand and the anti-semitic fascist parties that have gained public support as a backlash to that underclass on the other. It’s a truism in 2015 that multicultural Europe has done a dangerously poor job of assimilating its lower-class Muslim population, which means Merkel and the EU would have little choice in the new crisis but to be strict about not admitting giant new populations of destitute Muslim refugees from Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq.
But no, just the opposite. Germany’s waving them through, vowing to accept 800,000 refugees this year alone and 500,000 annually going forward. The other EU countries are expected to absorb their own “fair share,” whatever that may mean. Some of the migrants are being greeted with applause by locals at the train stations in Germany when they arrive, and Merkel herself has noted very casually in her public comments that she fully expects the newcomers will “change our country in coming years.”
What am I missing? Germany’s going to atone for its horrendous persecution and displacement of minorities, particularly Jews, during World War II by welcoming a huge new population from a part of the world known for horrendously persecuting and displacing minorities, particularly Jews? And they’re going to do this over the objections of their European neighbors, who have little right to control new settlements thanks to the EU’s open-borders policy? Janet Daley sees the end of the EU as we know it on the horizon:
The nations of the old Soviet bloc which are struggling to get their fledgling economies established are being turned into a chaotic corridor for waves of migrants seeking the benevolence of rich, secure countries like Germany and Sweden. As Mr Orban said: “Nobody wants to stay in Hungary [or] Slovakia, nor Poland, nor Estonia. All want to go to Germany.” And yet his country, and potentially others which have the misfortune to be on the Balkan land route, are being forced to cope with the consequences of this mass movement of peoples. Imagine if you were a poor householder, just managing to keep your financial head above water while you attempted to turn your circumstances around, and a very wealthy neighbour decided to throw open his doors to the needy – and one obvious way that those in need could reach that welcoming haven was by tramping through your house. Might you find yourself inclined to be unhelpful in the hopes of discouraging others from taking the same path?
The real fear of the Hungarians and their fellow Eastern Europeans is that the uncontrolled flow of migrants will force an end to the EU free movement policy which was one of the great attractions of membership for those states. And, of course, they are absolutely right. It is almost inevitable that border controls will be re-established for the duration of the present emergency. Arguably the Schengen principle is one of the causes of this crisis. It is now clearly understood all over the world that all of rich modern Europe will become instantly accessible if you can manage to set foot on any corner of an EU state: so the tiniest Greek island or the southernmost tip of the poorest region of Italy, which have no resources for registering and processing the arrival of huge numbers of people, become the entry points for unrestricted movement. What was intended to be a domestic freedom for Europeans within their own continent has become unbounded territory for the desperate populations of the world. This surely must be the irresistible pitch of the people traffickers.
The lure of the EU for small countries was greater access to German, French, and British markets. In practice, thanks to Germany placing international PR above vital national interests in this refugee crisis (“This is something very valuable, especially considering our history,” said Merkel of their new open-door policy), they’ll end up with the same old hardened borders in time but with the bonus attraction of hundreds of thousands of Syrians — but not just Syrians — sneaking into their countries en route to Welfare-istan, a.k.a. Germany. Show of hands: Who’s betting on a safe, stable Europe with a secure Jewish diaspora circa, say, 2050, once that Syrian population has grown? What we’re going to get in many of these countries, I think, is a replica of the modern Arab dynamic in which a secular fascist leader grips power tightly with promises to keep the local Islamist radicals in check. You trust that sort of regime, especially one that’s German, to govern responsibly, no? Also, who thinks European leaders will be modest and judicious in reacting to critics of the new policy versus dismissing them all out of hand as racists and nativists, as our own domestic left does so often to right-wing critics of weak borders? The best friend fascist movements in Europe have is the disdain of the local political crisis for middle-class discomfort with enormous population transfers from illiberal societies.
Two clips for you here, one of Merkel and the other of Josh Earnest agreeing that there’s a role for Congress to play in crafting America’s own response to the refugee crisis. You’d better believe there is in an election year: The only time Obama’s solicitous of Congress is when he’s in a political jam and doesn’t want his party to bear the brunt of him acting unilaterally, like when he suddenly decided in 2013 that he couldn’t in good conscience bomb Assad for using chemical weapons unless his friend John Boehner and the GOP caucus approved. Same deal here, probably. No doubt O would favor a Merkel-esque policy if left to his own devices, especially since he did more than most to create this crisis (a point the media would rather you not dwell on while you’re weeping over the fate of Syrians), but that might sink Hillary. Better to try to spread the blame by involving Boehner and McConnell. Exit question: What happens if more than 500,000 migrants show up in Germany? What does Merkel do then?