This article was first posted in The Commentator
On Wednesday, TIME magazine named German leader Angela Merkel its ‘Person of the Year’ in a ridiculous celebration of short-sightedness.
Citing her role as “de facto leader of the European Union” and leading the EU through the major existential crises it has faced over the course of the year, the magazine explained the German chancellor has “stepped up in a way that was uncharacteristic, even for her.”
In one regard they are correct: Merkel’s impulsive decision to invite the 20+ million population of Syria to Europe will prove to be one of the most momentous decisions of the first half of the 21st century.
Combine this with her handling of the Eurozone crisis, degrading the proud nation of Greece to the status of an EU (read German) colony, her vilification of Eastern European leaders who question her decisions, and kowtowing to Turkey in a desperate attempt to stem the flood of migrants she helped trigger, and the German Chancellor deserves the award hands down!
No-one has questioned Merkel’s dominance of the moral high ground. She took the lead, alongside Obama, in demanding sanctions on Russia following its destabilisation of Ukraine, a sovereign and democratic nation which only wished to trade with Europe. Her demands that Greece should live within its own means and repay its creditors, won her plaudits for forcing financial stability on a government which decided it didn’t want to obey the laws of economics.
Finally, she welcomed refugees fleeing war-torn Syria into Germany to help solve her country’s aging population crisis, winning her praise from across the world for putting humanity above politics.
However, she now has egg on her face, following the influx of 1 million migrants and the anger or her country.
If you look behind the speeches and examine the context of the decisions, a far less rosy picture emerges. It is undoubtedly true Merkel lead the diplomatic charge against Putin, despite the discomfort of German industry, and the completion of the Minsk agreement saw her touted as the “chancellor of Europe.”
The German public was highly supportive of the move: 65 percent support sanctions against Russia and 78 percent distrust Moscow.
But it now emerges Germany is continuing a deal to build two huge new gas pipelines from Russia into Germany, demonstrating that whilst the Chancellor is keen on standing up to Russia, it must not be at the expense of German business.
Similarly, her demands for austerity from Greece also come a bit undone when examined in detail. Previous Greek governments had spent beyond their means and were clearly going to have to enact major reforms in order to remain in the Euro.
However, the major winners from the final bailout deal were the banks who had leant Greece money in the first place. The first use of their bailout money had to be spent on the repayment of high-interest loans to, yes you guessed it, German banks. So whilst preaching austerity and prudence for the Greek people, the Chancellor made sure the German institutions which had loaned the money in the first place should be rewarded first and foremost.
But all this pales compared to the momentous decision of the German Chancellor to open the door of Europe to all Syrian refugees. Whilst no-one is doubting the desperate plight of those fleeing the combined terrors of Daesh and Assad, Merkel’s welcome has undoubtedly made the chaotic migration situation far worse.
Rather than applying to enter the EU from refugee camps, as Britain has proposed, where the necessary background checks can be completed alongside the provision of aid, many genuine refugees have instead been pushed into the boats of the people smugglers. These criminals, unsurprisingly, are not concerned about the actual origins of the people they are smuggling; all they want is huge sums of money.
Large numbers of migrants from across the Middle East are also landing on the shores of Greece demanding asylum. Understandably, central and eastern European countries are a bit upset they were not even consulted before huge numbers of migrants started crossing their sovereign territory. The decision to relocate the Syrian migrants across Europe was driven by the same Chancellor who had won such applause for offering them a home in Germany.
Public approval is fickle. Once the true ramifications of the Chancellor’s decision became apparent to the German people they swiftly demanded she change course and limit the number of migrants who would be accepted into Germany.
But it’s now too late. Millions have already crossed into Europe or are on their way. The only thing she could try and do to restore German borders was to desperately appeal to Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan rightly reckons he holds all the aces from the pack in his hand and now demands a high price for his assistance: Turkey’s membership of the EU and a cash payment of 3 billion euros.
Merkel and other EU leaders’ desperation to resolve the crisis has led them to accept his demands. But Turkey’s accession to the EU could very well prove to be the straw that breaks the EU’s back. Not only will the EU grant access to 75 million Turks — some of whom have sympathies with Islamic extremism, but, in Erdogan, it will also welcome a man who makes the much vilified leaders of some central and eastern European countries look like paragons of tolerance.
Such a development will damage the European ideal on which the EU is based, a wound from which it will not recover. The sooner we Get Britain Out of the EU the better.