An Open Letter to the EU's External Action Service

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Did you know that the EU has a foreign ministry? Very few people do, since it it does very little. The number of foreign-policy priorities all 28 EU member states can agree on can probably be counted on one hand. So they do things like this:

Brussels, 12/05/2016
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STATEMENT

Statement by the Spokesperson on LGBTI rights in the United States

"The recently adopted laws including in the states of Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee, which discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the United States contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a State party, and which states that the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection.

As a consequence, cultural, traditional or religious values cannot be invoked to justify any form of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI persons. These laws should be reconsidered as soon as possible.

The European Union reaffirms its commitment to the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We will continue to work to end all forms of discrimination and to counter attempts to embed or enhance discrimination wherever it occurs around the world."

I decide to send the three names credited with this statement the following open letter:

Dear Ms. Ray, Ms. Kocijancic, Mr. Kaznowski,

This is an open letter which I have also posted on my blog, www.germanjoys.eu.

I read with interest your pronouncement of May 12, 2016 calling on the states of Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee to 'reconsider' laws requiring persons to use bathrooms which accord with the sex on their birth certificates. You promised to "continue to work to end all forms of discrimination and to counter attempts to embed or enhance discrimination wherever it occurs around the world."

I am a citizen of the United States, but I have lived in Germany for over a decade. I have paid German taxes which, ultimately, help to fund the EU. I am curious about your reasons for making this pronouncement, and have a few questions which I would like to pose and a few points which I'd like to bring to your attention.

The first question is, of course, why are the decisions of democratically-elected legislatures in American states important to the EU? With all the other crises engulfing Europe these days, who decided to give this issue priority? Do you have any proof that these laws will ever have any significant effect on EU citizens? Can you name one transgender EU citizen living in the State of Mississippi, for instance?

Do you have any evidence that your views reflect the will of a majority of EU citizens? Do you have any public-opinion polls showing that large numbers of EU citizens care about these laws? Did you check the legislation of all 28 EU member states to determine whether those countries have similar laws? Do you believe that the bathroom choices available to transgender persons in 3 states of the United States are an important issue to the people of, say, Hungary? Poland? Romania?

Can you point to any treaty provision or legal precedent that supports your interpretation of the ICCPR'S non-discrimination clauses, which mention only discrimination on the basis of 'sex'? Specifically, do you have any legal precedent for the view that that gender-segregated bathrooms -- the overwhelming policy and practice of every society and every nation -- is unlawful discrimination on the basis of ‘sex’?

I have found no legal authority whatsoever to support your interpretation. I would be much obliged if you could show me any.

To take a much more fundamental issue than bathroom choice, marriage is now available to gays in every state of the United States. Are you aware that the largest EU member state, Germany, continues to deny gay people the right to marry, and has no plan to change that policy? And that the majority of EU member states denies gays the right to marry? Are you aware that large majorities of the populations of Eastern European states oppose gay marriage? Are you aware that just three years ago, one of the largest demonstrations in the history of France took place in Paris to oppose laws granting French homosexuals the right to marry?

Given the continuing controversy over this fundamental issue within the EU, why do you believe it is appropriate for the EU to take a stand on transgender bathroom rights in federal states in faraway lands? In particular, do you have any proof that your statement reflects the values of European citizens? 

I believe that a reliable representative poll would certainly show that a majority of EU citizens favors maintaining gender-segregated bathrooms. I challenge you to show me any evidence that this is not the case.

To sum things up, I believe it is the case that your statement (1) is backed by zero legal authority; (2) reflects a view which would be rejected by the overwhelming majority of the people whom you claim to represent; and (3) is directed at an issue that has no meaningful effect on EU citizens; and (4) is far too insignificant to be worthy of the time and attention of EU officials.

I think you should withdraw the statement and focus on issues that actually matter to the people of Europe.

Goodness knows there's no shortage of those, is there?

Sincerely,

Andrew Hammel

Düsseldorf, Germany


Crimes in the Times

Whenever I blog about crimes by migrants, most of my German readers shift uncomfortably in their seats. They maintain utter silence about the issue, never commenting one way or the other, and privately wonder if I've finally drunk das Kool-Aid of neo-Nazism. The reason for this is a simple cultural misunderstanding: most educated Germans perceive a strong taboo against discussing migrant crime, but I don't.

Nor does the New York Times. An article about the influence of violent crimes on today's election in Austria begins with this picture of the bruises inflicted on a grandmother when she was raped by a young Afghan male:

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By any measure, the string of crimes has been terrible. A grandmother of three, walking her dog, raped along a riverbank. A 10-year-old boy sexually assaulted at a public swimming pool. A 21-year-old student gang raped near the giant Ferris wheel at Vienna’s famed Prater park. A 54-year-old woman beaten to death on the street.

The fact that the crimes were committed by recent migrants from war zones and an immigrant who had lived illegally in the country for years added an especially volatile element to the political climate ahead of the presidential election on Sunday, when Austria could become the first European country to elect a far-right candidate as head of state since the end of Nazism.

...

Ms. Bubits is also the daughter of the woman, now 72, who was raped while walking her dog on Sept. 1. Since the attack, Ms. Bubits said, her mother has gone from being healthy to ridden with anxiety and requiring close attention.

“It goes up and down,” Ms. Bubits said, but “it’s basically as if she was suddenly 90.”

On a visit to her home on Friday, her mother could barely shuffle a few steps without assistance. Ms. Bubits said she and her mother wanted to speak out about what had happened to emphasize that despite the problems many Austrians want to help refugees and make a place for them in their country.

According to court documents, her mother was walking her 13-year-old dog by the Schwechat, a river where refugees and residents often bathe. A young man helped her up a slope, but then, the documents said, “exploited her physical weakness,” threw her to the ground, “held her mouth shut, ripped her clothes and forced her to engage” in sex.

...

“It is all getting whipped up politically,” said Martin Mahrer, a lawyer who is defending one of three young Afghans who have confessed to raping a female Turkish student in a park on April 22. “People now want offenders to be really severely punished.”

Mr. Mahrer said some of these young migrants had arrived from war zones, with completely un-Western views about women.

“They do not respect the same things we do,” Mr. Mahrer said. But, he asked, are foreign offenders less equal before the law than Austrians?

If this article had appeared in German newspapers which consider themselves comparable to the New York Times -- well, actually, it wouldn't have in the first place. Respectable broadsheets don't publish photos of bruises caused by vicious rapists. Only tabloids would stoop so low. Respectable broadsheets don't let victims of crimes by ethnic minorities tell their stories -- that privilege is reserved for victims of right-wing attacks. If respectable broadsheets mention violent crime at all, it is only to tell their readers what things are permissible to think and say about the issue. 

In other words, respectable broadsheets are ignoring a problem that's obvious to everyone living in Western Europe. Serious crime by migrants is a vitally important public-policy issue in Europe today. It is literally changing the political face of Western Europe. Statistics are one thing, but anyone who underestimates the potential explosive impact of random violence against strangers in public places is a fool. And respectable broadsheets are full of these fools, which is why they are so surprised by the rightward lurch in European national politics.


Erdogan: A Strong Leader Governing in his Country's National Interest

If there's one thing German mainstream journalists excel at -- and I'm tempted to say there is just one thing -- it's to point the finger of moral judgment at other countries. About half of all mainstream German press coverage consists of some reporter you've never heard of denouncing of country X's domestic policies, even though these have nothing to do with Germany.

The latest example is Turkish President Erdogan's decision to lift parliamentary immunity (g) for dozens of politicians in Turkey's parliament. We are assured by German journos that this is an unprecedented step in hollowing-out Turkey's democracy, that it's the hallmark of authoritarian rule, etc. Which it may be, who knows?

And more importantly, who cares? Certainly not the average German. In fact, the average German doesn't know what parliamentary immunity is. Being rational humans, average Germans pay most attention to things that matter in their daily lives, not legal abstractions. As Bryan Caplan pointed out almost a decade ago in his book The Myth of the Rational Voter, no more than 10-20% of people in most democracies bother to stay informed about the issues. They are the educated elite who have plenty of leisure time. The rest of the population views keeping up with the issues as a waste of time.

One thing that actually does affect Germany is who gets to enter the country. And here, Erdogan is showing his talent for statecraft. After successfully extorting billions of Euros from Europe by exploiting the migrant crisis, he is now setting his sights on offloading problem cases onto Europe. Under the recent agreement between the EU and Germany, the EU has agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee for every refugee sent back from Greece to Turkey by boat.

And Turkey is doing something clever. Relying on rights it was granted as part of the agreement, Turkey is yanking healthy Syrians with college degrees and/or valuable skills out of the 'Resettlement to Europe' line (g) and canceling their exit permits. The uneducated and those with expensive diseases, on the other hand, are free to go. They will land in Germany and promptly integrate into the German welfare state, racking up billions in medical costs -- yes, billions -- that the German taxpayer -- not the Turkish taxpayer -- will have to finance.

One might denounce this policy as cruel or cynical, and no doubt German journalists will. But of this there's no doubt: it is in Turkey's national interest. Turkish voters are no doubt just as ignorant as voters anywhere else. But they understand that inviting skilled workers who will find jobs or create jobs and pay taxes is in Turkey's interest.

Erdogan has a plan, and is pursuing it. Germany's immigration priorities seem to change every week. Germany is as ruthless as any other country in economic policy (see Bayer contemplating the purchase of Monsanto, the punching-bag of German journalists since 1985). But for some reason, Germany cannot seem to figure out what its interests are in refugee policy, or how or even whether to pursue them.

As Machiavelli said: "He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation."

Erdogan is playing Germany like a two-dollar violin. No wonder he's so popular in Turkey. And Merkel's so unpopular at home.


PC Euphemism Drives People to the Right Wing

The right-wing Alternative for Germany party is now polling at a righteous 15% (g) making it the third-largest party in Germany. And a recent polls shows why: even though most Germans don't think the AfD has any real answers to Germany's political problems, half of Germans approve of the tendency of AfD politicians to 'tell it like it is'.

This is something I've been pointing to for months now: the tendency of functionaries from the mainstream German political parties to muffle controversial subjects in layers of gutless waffle irritates many voters.

  • When people see Arab clans staging massive, bloody brawls on the streets of German cities, they hear politicians speak of 'neighborhoods where the challenges of integration are particularly difficult'.
  • When they read of women being stripped, robbed, beaten and/or gang-raped, they hear politicians speak of 'deeply tragic isolated incidents of severe misconduct which the justice system must take seriously'.
  • When they think to themselves that any migrant who commits a serious crime in Germany should be deported by force to wherever they came from within days, they hear baffling, condescending lectures about 'the constitutional right to an individual determination of asylum status during which only crimes above a certain level of intensity can be taken into account...etc. etc.'
  • When they hear of foreigners groping children's genitals while masturbating in public baths, they hear of 'persons being investigated for improper touching' and the ever-present warning not to 'overgeneralize on the basis of one case'. As if the politician were more concerned about the potential reaction of his fellow citizens than the fact that a child was molested.

A chunk of the electorate -- 50% in Germany now -- becomes convinced that politicians either don't know or don't care about reality. And feel an instinctive affinity for any politician who actually uses straightforward, plain, active sentences to describe what he or she sees. They don't necessarily know about or even care about the party's policies -- they just finally hear someone in a position of responsibility using the sort of language normal humans do.

Over to Orwell:

Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

Now of course this preference is selective: the AfD is currently riding high on the preferences of certain voters to hear blunt talk about immigration, not about other subjects. But the tragic flaw or genius of democracy, depending on your viewpoint, is that voters get to decide what's important to them.

This is hardly just an issue of diction. Donald Trump is now the Republican nominee in the US, and one main reason why is his blunt talk. The AfD has now permanently changed the German political landscape for the same reason. Something which starts out as a matter of tone can quickly change how countries are governed. Only people who've never read Orwell should be surprised by this.


Germany Has Already Imported an Inevitable Increase in Violent Crime

It's good to be smart, for a lot of reasons. One of them is that higher intelligence is associated with a lower lifetime risk of being the victim of a crime:

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The abstract:

Intelligence has been linked to antisocial, violent, and criminal behaviors. Surprisingly, however, there is a lack of research examining whether intelligence differentially affects the risk for personal victimization. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by examining whether adolescent levels of verbal intelligence are related to the odds of personal victimization in adolescence and adulthood. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The results revealed a statistically significant and consistent association between intelligence and victimization. Persons with lower intelligence were more likely to report being victimized even after controlling for the effects of violent criminal behavior. Future research would benefit by examining more closely the association between IQ score and the risk for victimization over the life course.

Note the first sentence: "Intelligence has been linked to antisocial, violent, and criminal behaviors." More to the point, lack of intelligence has been linked to higher levels of antisocial, violent, and criminal behaviors. Hundreds of studies establish this correlation, in dozens of different cultures.

This is why cognitive ability is important in the German immigration debate. If you decide to let 800,000 young males into your country in a single year, it is extremely important to know what their level of cognitive ability is, for a very simple reason: the lower the level of cognitive ability, the higher the propensity, on average, to commit violent and antisocial acts.

Let me insert the necessary qualifications: this does not mean that every low-IQ immigrant will commit a violent crime, or even that most will. Nor does this mean that you can predict what any one individual immigrant will do on the basis of broad studies.

What this does mean, though, is that if (1) a group of young male immigrants have a profile of low cognitive ability; and (2) you let very large numbers of them into your country -- you will then have a marked increase in antisocial behavior and violent crime.

This is inevitable.

It is baked-in.

There is no way to avoid it.

Let's add a few factors to indicate the German situation. The typical 2015 young male immigrant to Germany:

  1. Is now for the first time freed from the social constraints which strictly limit antisocial behavior back home (reputation in the community, threat of violent retribution from own/victims' kin).
  2. Speaks no German and has zero understanding of the host country's culture, customs, and history.
  3. Has nothing to do all day, since he cannot legally work until his immigration status is clarified, and likely has no relevant job skills in any case.
  4. Has, for the first time in his life, unrestricted access to cheap alcohol.

All these factors point in the same unpleasant direction: No matter what the German government does, no matter what policies it follows, no matter how many unpaid hours volunteers put in, Germany will see a significant rise in antisocial activity and violent crime in Germany in the coming years driven by migrants.

Any analysis of migration policy that tries to deny or ignore these fact is fundamentally dishonest.

To link back to the study above, the primary victims of this increase in violent crime will be Germans with lower cognitive ability and less education. That is, the ones who live in the lower-middle-class and working-class neighborhoods where migrant shelters are now being erected -- generally against the will of nearby residents. It is these people who will be most exposed to the increased dangers and risks of uncontrolled immigration.

And when they quite rationally react to this situation with anger and disgust, they will be insulted and mocked. By the very educated urbanites who created and supported the policy in the first place.


Sanity in the Extreme

So, the Alternative for Germany party convention (g) rejected a platform plank that would have declared that Germany is "not a country of immigrants" and instead approved the following: "Immigrants who have relevant qualifications for the labor market and who demonstrate a high degree of willingness to integrate are welcome here."

Whenever the AfD is criticized as extreme and xenophobic in the coming years -- and it will be, constantly and unrelentingly, in a barrage of propaganda -- remember that sentence:

"Immigrants who have relevant qualifications for the labor market and who demonstrate a high degree of willingness to integrate are welcome here."

That is the party's official stance on immigration. Not only is there nothing extreme about this, this is currently the policy of the overwhelming majority of countries on the face of the earth. All countries to which a rational person might want to immigrate -- and many others -- openly and frankly say to potential immigrants: we only want you if you can contribute to our society. Otherwise, we won't let you in. Our country's immigration policy puts the interests of existing citizens first, and there is nothing shameful, wrong, or even questionable about that.

Noted racist authoritarian backwater Canada, on an official government website, lists the factors it uses for its own immigration point system:

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In Canada, you have to score at least 67 points. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that current German immigration policy, driven by a bizarre form of cultural masochism, is drawing mainly people who score less than 20 points on this scale. Many less than 10. Many less than 5.

It's hard to know where to place on this scale the tens of thousands of (often illiterate) 2015 immigrants to Germany who have already committed serious crimes. They are, after all, not only not benefiting Germany in any way, they are actively harming the country. Perhaps we need to expand the scale below 0 to capture Germany's current immigration policy.

-20? -50?

So remember, whenever les bien-pensants accuse the AfD of xenophobia, they are condemning the current immigration policies of virtually every developed nation.

That may give you a new perspective on who the extremists are.


Migrant Assaults Back on the Omertà List in Germany, But Not in Australia

After a brief period of honest discussion in January, the mainstream national press has returned to a policy of silence on sexual offenses committed by migrants. Those offenses haven't stopped, of course, but they are now reported on only in local newspapers and websites.

Nevertheless, sites which aggregate these reports point to what is clearly a significant public-safety issue in Germany. If we ever get reliable statistics on sex assaults in Germany in 2015-16 broken down by ethnicity of offender, we will certainly see a large increase driven by assaults and rapes committed by recent migrants. (Which is why those statistics will likely never be collected.)

Since the national German media are ignoring this public-safety issue, Australia has decided to step in. Here's a relatively balanced but critical story from the Australian NewsCorp website:

GERMANY, Sweden and other European countries are facing growing public unrest amid a wave of reports of sexual assaults since the Cologne attacks.

New York-based conservative think tank Gatestone Institute has compiled ashocking list of sexual assaults and rapes by migrants in Germany in just the first two months of the year.

Drawing only from German media reports, the list documents more than 160 instances of rape and sexual assault committed by migrants in train stations,swimming pools and other public places against victims as young as seven.

German police use terms such as “southerners” (südländer), men with “dark skin” (dunkelhäutig, dunklere gesichtsfarbe, dunklem hauttyp) or “southern skin colour” (südländische hautfarbe) to describe the alleged perpetrators.

Authorities across the country have been accused of downplaying the true extent of the problem by suppressing information about migrant-related crimes, ostensibly due to a “lack of public interest”.

Police are also wary of fuelling civil unrest amid a rising number of attacks on migrants and shelters by right-wing vigilante groups. In response, Germans are increasingly turning to social media to spread information.

A German Twitter account, @XYEinzelfall (“individual cases”), has created aGoogle map to track police reports of crimes allegedly committed by migrants across the region. “Cologne was just the tip of the iceberg,” the page says. “Cologne is every day.”...

However, refugee advocates have warned against tarring all migrants with the same brush, noting that the alleged crimes are rare incidents in the context of the enormous number of migrants who have come to Europe.

More than 1.1 million migrants flooded into Germany in 2015 and the country is expecting 3.6 million to arrive by 2020, according to internal government estimates.

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Šimonović told Timethat “against this background, we are currently speaking about incidents that must be carefully studied to establish any patterns and links”....

The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) announced that migrants committed crimes at the same rate as native Germans.

“It’s becoming clear that at bottom there is a higher absolute number of criminal cases only because of the increase in number of people living here with the arrival of the refugees,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said at the time.

Mr de Maizière said he had ordered the report in order to provide proof to “dispel rumours about an increase in criminal acts in Germany”, DW reported.

“The majority [of migrants] do not come here with the intention of committing crimes,” he said. “They come to Germany to find protection and peace.”

The same report, which was based on crime statistics from January to the end of September 2015, noted a “marked spike” in crime at migrant centres, which it attributed to overcrowding.

According to BKA, the majority (67 per cent) of crimes committed by migrants consisted of theft, robbery and fraud, while sex crimes made up less than one per cent....

On Monday, police in the Swedish city of Östersund advised women not to go outdoors alone following a string of public assaults and sex attacks in the past three weeks.

Sweden, which has a population of just under 10 million, took in around 163,000 migrants in 2015, making it by far the most generous on a per capita basis.

National broadcaster SVT reports what police area manager Stephen Jerand described as a “worrying trend” of unprovoked violence on women in public places.

Speaking at a press conference, police said they had never experienced crime of this nature in the small city of Östersund, which has a population of just 44,000.

“This is serious,” Mr Jerand said. “We care about the protection of women and that is why we go out and talk about this.”

Police said there had been six reports of attacks since February 20, including a 10-year-old girl who was molested at a bus station in the centre of the city....

It comes after a poll conducted by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet found nearly half of all women in the country are now scared to exercise alone at night.

According to the survey, 46 per cent of women aged over 16 felt either “very” or “somewhat” unsafe when they are alone in the dark, compared with 20 per cent of men.

Almost one third said if they were caught by sunset, that they would rather stay at a friend’s house than try to get home alone.

Speaking to the newspaper, 34-year-old Ellinor Andersson said she carried a bunch of keys in her hand at night, ready to strike out at any attacker.

“I would never go running by myself on a Friday or a Saturday night,” she told the paper. Another said she would never go out alone after 7pm.

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported of an all-female, bikini-clad group of ‘vigilantes’ called the ‘Groping Guards’, who patrol swimming pools in Sweden to prevent migrants molesting bathers.

“Swimming pools have become prime hunting grounds for gangs of men looking to prey on vulnerable women,” 24-year-old Siri Bernhardsson told the Daily Mail.

“Loads of women here say they have been touched. We are tired of men thinking they can come to Sweden and molest women. We want to teach these boys how to behave and be left in peace to swim without being felt up.

“It happens in train stations and in swimming pools. This should not be the case in 2016 in Sweden.”

In January, it emerged that Swedish authorities had covered up sexual assaults on teenage girls by mostly migrant youths at a music festival in Stockholm for fear of “[playing] into the hands” of the anti-immigration right-wing party the Sweden Democrats.

In an editorial for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper at the time, Ivar Arpi wrote: “We Swedes pride ourselves on our unrivalled record on respecting women’s rights. But when women’s rights conflict with the goal of accommodating other cultures, it’s almost always women who are pushed to the side.”

It's almost as if the Australian news media trust their readers to be able to read balanced but direct reports about a sensitive subject without immediately rushing out of their houses to form mobs and hunt down foreigners.


Hegemonic Self-Righteousness

Wolfgang Streeck on Merkel in the LRB. Occasionally too polemical, but an interesting argument:

A master politician like Merkel will never let a good crisis go to waste. It wasn’t just media stories about suffering migrants that led her to invite the refugees in Budapest to come to Germany, no papers required and no questions asked. What Merkel called ‘showing a friendly face in an emergency’ was meant to shame those who, during the euro crisis, had enjoyed the cartoons of Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in Nazi uniform. By opening the German border while the French and British borders remained closed, Merkel could hope to recapture the moral high ground occupied for so long by those accusing the German government of sado-monetarism, or worse.

Another factor was the tight labour market that German employers, still Merkel’s main constituency, were facing, especially after the introduction of a statutory minimum wage was forced on Merkel by her coalition partner, the SPD. Rumours spread in the German press that Syrian refugees in particular, many of them allegedly with degrees in engineering and medicine, had all manner of skills. German economic research institutes predicted a newWirtschaftswunder, while employers promised to invest heavily in training the presumably tiny number of less skilled immigrants. Everybody assumed that most if not all the refugees and asylum seekers – a distinction soon lost in the general excitement – would stay in Germany for a long time if not for good. For Merkel, who in October 2010 claimed that ‘the multikulti approach [had] failed, absolutely failed,’ this was no longer a problem. In fact, it had become a solution: in the first half of 2015, several studies indicated that the expensive measures taken over a decade of Merkel rule to induce German families to have more children had had next to no effect. Early that summer, to avert what was perceived as a looming demographic crisis, Merkel got her closest aides to test the mood in the party and among the general public on immigration legislation, but was met with firm resistance.

Budapest was what the ancient Greeks called a kairos – a lucky moment when a number of birds were positioned in such a way that they could be killed with one stone. Politics, as always with Merkel, trumped policies. ‘Showing a friendly face’ would make it possible for the Greens at the next election in 2017 to do what their leadership has long wanted to do but never dared: enter into a coalition government with the Christian Democrats. Merkel acted exactly as she did on neoliberal reform in 2005 and nuclear energy in 2011: quickly, on her own, and without wasting time explaining herself. Just as she did when she ordered the Energiewende (‘energy transition’) while the law extending the lifespan of the nuclear power plants was still on the books (several energy supply companies are suing for damages), she counted on the opposition parties in the Bundestag – Linkspartei and the Greens – not to ask awkward questions, and they obliged. The members of her party couldn’t complain: they had been backed into a corner by the SPD’s approval of Merkel’s stance, and by their desire not to damage their leader. Once again, a decision ‘that will change our country’, as Merkel herself put it, was made without regard for democratic process or, for that matter, constitutional formalities.... 

There were good reasons for asking questions. The refugees, more than a million of them, who arrived in Germany in 2015, all arrived from safe third countries. Under German and European law, they had to register in the country where they entered the European Union, and then wait to be assigned a legal residence in a member state. Merkel seems to have decided that she could safely ignore all this. When anyone complained that this was both a huge stress test on German society and a giant social engineering project, Merkel regally announced that if she had to apologise for ‘showing a friendly face’, ‘then this is not my country’ – an extraordinary statement for a democratically elected leader to make. In fact, as the Energiewendedemonstrated, she has for some time been governing not like a parliamentary leader but like a president with emergency powers. For some time, inquiries into the wisdom of her immigration policy were answered by her entourage – which in this case included all the Bundestag parties – by claiming that the mere expression of dissent ‘played into the hands of the right’, a potent rhetorical device in Germany. Until Cologne, concern over the government’s handling of the refugee crisis was effectively suppressed.

One problem with hegemonic self-righteousness is that it prevents the self-righteous from seeing that what they consider morally self-evident is informed by self-interest. The self-interest of German export industries, for example, underlies Germany’s identification of the ‘European idea’ with the single European currency. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the national interest that is mistakenly seen as identical to the interest of all reasonable human beings, in Europe and beyond, is necessarily shaped by the political interest of the government and its dominant social bloc in preserving their power. This puts peripheral countries at the mercy of the national power games and the moral and semantic ethnocentrisms of countries at the centre, which are hard to decipher for outsiders – especially with a postmodern leader like Merkel who, free from substantive commitments and constitutional constraints, has perfected the art of staying in power by means of unpredictable changes of course.

As the refugee crisis unfolded, Europe was dragged into the complicated twists and turns of German domestic politics. Merkel early on informed an astonished German public that controlling national borders had become ‘impossible in the 21st century’, and backed this up by aggressively criticising the Hungarian government for preparing to close its borders. After Cologne, of course, the closing of borders suddenly became possible again, and Hungary re-emerged as a model for the rest of Europe, in particular for Greece, which was threatened by Germany with exclusion from the Schengen area if it didn’t seal its borders. German law forbids, or is said by the German government to forbid, sending would-be immigrants away once they have expressed a desire to apply for asylum. So Merkel had to get the Greeks, and Europe as a whole, to observe this principle, lest her German pro-immigration constituency smelled the rat that was heading in its direction. The burden of keeping the migrants out of Europe fell on Turkey, which was supposed to put an end to the illegal trafficking of migrants to Greece – on a country, that is, whose human rights record suggests it may not be particularly careful when dealing with Syrian or any other refugees. Of course, Turkish co-operation had a price, and though Merkel had in the past steadfastly opposed the country’s bid for EU membership, now, having changed tack again and speaking on behalf of Europe as a whole, she promised Erdoğan expedited negotiations on accession as a reward for preventing the Syrian refugees she had invited to enter Germany from entering Greece....

The result of all the equivocation, double-talk and Merkelspeak, this difficult-to-disentangle mix of self-interest and sentimentality, is an immense political and institutional mess caused by the imposition on Europe of German policies disguised as European policies to which, supposedly, there is no alternative. This includes a restructuring of the citizenry through immigration, not just in Germany where it might seem economically or demographically expedient, but also in other European countries where it definitely isn’t. The result is rapidly rising anti-German sentiment in the form of anti-European sentiment, not only among political elites but also, most powerfully, among the electorate.