Will the German Government Stumble over the Refugee Crisis?
On May 3, 2016, the Paris office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a breakfast roundtable with Timo Lochocki, transatlantic fellow on GMF’s Europe Program, to present his upcoming publication on “Why the German government is coming out strong of the refugee crisis." The event was followed by a discussion moderated by Martin Quencez, GMF program officer at the Paris office.
Lochocki presented three key arguments supporting the idea that the German government is unlikely to face significant political costs due to its handling of the refugee crisis, and may on the contrary come out stronger from the crisis. Firstly, he highlighted how the state budget will be able to absorb the short-term economic costs of an integration policy in Germany. In his second argument, he underlined how the events on New Year's Eve in Cologne triggered a united response by the governing Social-Democrats (SPD) and the Conservatives (CDU/CSU). Furthermore, the polls conducted after the events showed that 60.2 percent of German voters supported the government. These results show that trust in the German establishment on this issue remains extremely high. Finally, the closure of the Balkan route for migrants and the EU-Turkey deal seem to have led to a substantial reduction of incoming refugees to Germany without forcing the closure of German borders. As a result, the rising right-wing populist challenger Alternative for Germany (AfD) is most likely to face setbacks in the coming months, as its successes have been directly linked to the increasing number of incoming refugees and the perception of disunity in the government coalition. Therefore, the chances of a depolarized German society, and the CDU/CSU party and Angela Merkel coming out stronger at the federal election in September 2017 are high.
After Lochocki’s presentation, participants discussed the role of foreign policy and security issues in German politics, and German expectations toward its European partners. The event was attended by French and European experts, officials, journalists, and representative of the corporate sector.