November 02, 2018
When events intrude
There was a story two years ago of a Syrian refugee murdering a young student in the southwestern German city of Freiburg. Another violent crime occurred in the same city last month, a gang rape of a woman, orchestrated by a Kurdish Syrian. What makes this story specifically troubling is that the police had already targeted the perpetrator but chose not to act.
The reason we are reporting a story we would otherwise consider outside of our reservation is the potential connection to the CDU leadership race. Immigration has turned into the biggest political issue in Germany since the welfare reforms of the last decade, possibly even bigger. It is present in latent form at all times, but flares up when stories like these come to the surface.
The problem for Germany is not the number of immigrants in itself, but the lack of preparation and the government’s complacency in the management of the refugee flows. One consequence of a sudden rise in immigration should have been a massive increase in police resources and shifts in operating procedures. It would have required Scandinavian-type honesty in acknowledging problems and dealing with them, instead of giving in to the German gut instinct to hush things over. A good example of the latter was ARD Tagesschau not reportin on the murder two years ago, a decision taken out of a false sense of responsibility. They didn’t want to stoke up anti-immigrant sentiment, but achieved the exact opposite.
Angela Merkel’s historic failure was not the decision to open the borders, a decision we supported in principle. Her failure was the complete lack of follow-through. You cannot open the borders to 1m refugees and maintain the illusion of running permanent fiscal surpluses. At a technical level, the decision would have required a rule-busting increase in spending on internal security and housing construction. At a political level, she would have needed to spend political capital on this.
We note that a lack of a follow-through has also been the main characteristic of her management of the eurozone. Merkel did just enough to prevent the imminent failure of the eurozone at its various crisis nodes, but chose not expend her political capital on making the monetary union work in the long term. A monetary union without fiscal capacity - a common budget and a common safe asset - is not a sustainable construction. She was not part of the team that created the monetary union, but inherited an incomplete mess. Politics is the art of organising a majority for the things that need to be done but are difficult to do.
It is too early to say how this latest violent crime will impact the debate on the CDU's future leadership. It might give an opening to Jens Spahn, who is clearly the most outspoken critic of Merkel’s refugee policy. Friedrich Merz is in line with the conservative mainstream in the CDU on this issue. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is most closely associated with Merkel. She will need to create a distinct political profile for herself until the leadership elections a good month from now.
FAZ has a report this morning outlining her difficulties in having to organise the upcoming contest while being a candidate. She cannot use the party apparatus in support of her candidacy, while Friedrich Merz will be less constrained in using his private wealth. The CDU will decide the format of the contest next week. There is still some support for a members’ vote, or a system of regional conferences where candidates present their case to regional CDU parties, the paper writes.