Merkel Shifts Positions After Cologne Sex Attacks Shake German Public | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2016-01-13 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Cui Hongjian


German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent decision over backing tighter rules to expel convicted refugees was not that unexpected, while the after­shocks of Cologne’s New Year’s Eve assaults were spreading. The only surprise is perhaps that it has taken a bit longer than expected. For Merkel, who has been firm on welcoming asylum seekers, this is hardly a major change. But since she has been holding on to her pre­vious policy for so long, even under great pressure, any big adjustment of moving back­ward will indicate Merkel’s ac­knowledgement that she was wrong in the first place.

According to the latest report over Cologne’s attacks, 22 of 32 suspects were asylum seekers, while many stolen phones were located inside or near refugee centers. As countrywide anger grows, Merkel is now separat­ing convicted migrants from the far greater number of in­nocent ones, saying that when “people place themselves out­side the law, there must be con­sequences,” while underlying that “we owe it to all the inno­cent refugees who are fleeing from war and terrorism.”

As a matter of fact, however, the tougher migrant law is a sign that Merkel’s open-door refugee policy has failed, even though she has not and will not admit this. Cologne’s mass at­tack has given the anti-refugee forces a good excuse to oppose Merkel’s welcoming stance to­wards refugees.

The rise of Pegida (Patri­otic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), an anti-immigration right-wing movement, was a clear exam­ple. It was dwindling, but after Cologne assaults, a number of protests against refugees, and even against Merkel, were or­ganized by a revitalized Pegida.

In addition, after Germany started to open its borders for large influx of migrants, attacks on the refugee camps have nev­er stopped. Many of the attack­ers were young people with no criminal record.

It shows that all kinds of extremism, including the in­famous neo-Nazism, in the country might not develop in a visible organization, but as the spread of an ideology.

This is the most frighten­ing part. A tangible group of this kind can be cracked down on by policy or the police. But if the mentality spreads it will be a real threat. In such a sce­nario, the priority for not only Germany, but also the entire Europe for now is to control the refugee crisis and reduce the number of incoming asylum seekers. That’s why an increas­ing number of EU members are asking for an upper limit on the refugee influx. Merkel has never given way on the issue so far. However, if something big happens after the Cologne inci­dent, Berlin will be highly likely to set a quota for itself, maybe not publicly, but surely within its administration.

Europe also needs to seek a solution under the framework of the EU, and adopt joint mea­sures in the field of internal se­curity and judicial cooperation, such as sharing refugee infor­mation. It must also maintain its borders open within the EU in order to keep an ordered flow of migrants to avoid security is­sues that could be triggered by stranded asylum seekers.

In the meantime, nego­tiations with countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the major source of the current refugees, are also necessary. Safeguarding the peace and stability of surrounding areas is one of the vital prerequisites for bringing the entire refugee crisis under control.



Source:, January 13, 2016.

The author is director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies.