Initially, there was a degree of optimism that among those seeking refuge in Germany might be young, skilled and motivated potential workers. For a country that is looking into a demographic abyss this was seen as a good news story. Ageing Germany does indeed need some rejuvenation.
However, the profile of migrants does not justify such hope. It is estimated that about 20% of them are illiterate – and practically none speak any German. Even the German Federal Labour Minister recently admitted that only one in 10 of them will be easily integrated into the workforce. Conversely, this means that 90% will, at least for an initial period, be dependent on welfare.
The bill of the refugee crisis will thus be huge. How high precisely is anyone’s guess. Marcel Fratzscher, president of the DIW think tank in Berlin, believes it is going to cost €10 billion this year. But it could also be €20-30 billion, according Clemens Fuest, head of the Centre for European Economic Research ZEW. And even that figure might well be too low since Mr Fuest based it on just 800,000 refugees a year. More recent estimates now see that number at almost twice that level.---
A telling event happened at the beginning of this week at the German-Austrian border. Without even informing the German authorities, the Austrian government transported 70 busloads of refugees to the border, pointed them in the direction of Germany and basically left them there.
If that is the spirit of European integration, the EU might actually cease to exist. They are still holding emergency summits in Brussels, of course, but these do not produce any binding outcomes. In the end, it is every country against every other country.
As if Europe did not have enough problems to deal with before the refugee crisis, it is now faced with an even greater challenge: To deal with millions of underqualified migrants; to keep some kind of policy coordination going between Europe’s capitals; to address the cultural problems of integrating people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds; and to convince the domestic population that all of this may somehow be worth it – or at least that there is a moral justification to embark on this project.
Ms Merkel’s response to all of these challenges has so far been a vague “We will cope.” She has never asked whether her people really want to cope. And this oversight is backfiring on her.
Her personal popularity is plummeting like a stone and her party has lost six percentage points in the polls over the past couple of months.
As someone who has been following German politics for a while, I remember some pretty extraordinary events. But not even German unification 25 years ago brought such an existential crisis on the country as Frau Merkel’s lone decision. Unless she finds an exit strategy from the chaos she has caused, and unless she finds it soon, this will not end well.
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