Angela Merkel and the bet of openness to refugees

By Thomas Wieder

Posted today at 01:51

Friday, September 4, 2015. At Flora, the botanical garden of Cologne, the CDU federation of North Rhine-Westphalia celebrates its 70e birthday. Angela Merkel shakes hands, takes selfies and then climbs onto a small platform where a microphone has been placed. There, she begins with a few words of circumstance, evokes the upcoming municipal elections, gives her support to the local candidate, jokes about the mistakes that were made on the printed ballots, then she broaches the subject which dominates the news. : the migrant crisis. “Anyone who flees his country because he is persecuted or is in danger has the right to seek asylum, and it is our duty to respond to it, Article 1 of our Basic Law, that we like it or not, she said, before being moved by the attitude of the Hungarian government. It is painful to see that those who opened their borders to us twenty-five years ago now treat so harshly people who fled their country and need help. ”

Her speech finished, Angela Merkel does not linger. Before that, it was a long day (a meeting at the Chancellery in the morning, appointments in Bavaria, a small meeting in Essen) and she can’t wait to reach her Berlin apartment, where, with a little luck, she will arrive. in time for the end of the Germany-Poland match, which counts towards qualifying for Euro 2016.

A call from Austrian Prime Minister Werner Faymann quickly made him forget this idea. He has already tried to reach her an hour earlier on his personal mobile phone. But that was during her speech, and she didn’t hear. Now, in the car that takes her to Cologne airport, she can talk to him. At the end of the line, his counterpart explains to him that cohorts of refugees are arriving from Hungary and are now walking on the highway, on the Austrian side. The situation is potentially explosive.

For Werner Faymann, two options are possible: ask Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to intervene to stop the flow, but at the risk of provoking violence, or let the refugees continue to march west. But in this case, he wants to be able to count on Germany, in other words that this one accepts to accept part of it.

A formula for history

On the phone, Angela Merkel agrees with him to rule out the first option. Is she ready, however, to take on the second? Before answering, she wants to think a little, consult, be sure that she will be supported if she makes such a decision. What she said, five days earlier, at her annual press conference, in any case suggests that she is in favor: “Germany is a strong country. The idea that we must have in mind is this: we have managed to do so many things, we will do it. Yes, we will get there, like every time an obstacle stands in our way, and we have to overcome it! “

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