Can Angela Merkel prevent Europe being eaten away at its core?
Why did you come to Germany and not Italy? I ask Jawad, a skinny 16-year-old from Afghanistan, standing outside his family’s blanket-tented six square metres of home at an emergency refugee reception centre in an east Berlin sports hall. Six months ago he spoke no German, but now he replies without hesitation: “Italien hat kein Geld!” Italy has no money!
Short and to the point. A million Jawads arriving in a single year have so shaken up rich and bourgeois-liberal Germany that a xenophobic, anti-immigrant party has just won nearly a quarter of the vote in one east German state.
Around the world people are asking: can Europe’s centre hold?
Politically and economically, Germany is the centre of Europe. The “grand coalition” government of centre-right Christian Democrats and centre-left Social Democrats is the centre of Germany. And Angela Merkel is the centre of that centrist government. In a real sense, therefore, Merkel is the centre of Europe.
Faced with a bad result for her CDU in regional elections in three federal states, she remains outwardly unmoved, sticking to her proclaimed EU-Turkey strategy which the EU summit is being asked to approve in Brussels today. Is this the patient, pragmatic steadiness that has won her so much trust? Or is it the hubris that sets in, as if by some law of physics, when a politician has been in power for more than 10 years? (Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – the list goes on.)
The electoral success of AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) has been the cover story around the world.
It is not just the lower and struggling middle classes in Germany that are rushing to AfD!
Everyone I talked to in Berlin agreed that a striking feature of AfD is the support it enjoys among the educated middle class: professors, doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, people who know exactly when to say “Frau Doktor” and are themselves often “Herr Doktor”, if not “Herr Professor”.
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Just now I watched the almost non-stop footage of the recent terror take down in Brussels and wondered how any thinking person couldn’t understand that mass Muslim migration would eventually doom a city and a country.
Say NO to Molenbeek for your town!