TAXI: Europa

Pse play Die Ärzte’s “Schrei nach Liebe” (1993 – 4’13”) when reading this post.

This summer, I was surprised by the number of times my son’s Berliner friends were mentioning Chancellor Merkel’s name in their chit-chatting. They explained me that in the Strassendeutsch slang they picked up in Berlin, “zu merkeln” meant something like “not doing anything about an issue” even when the issue and its consequences were identified. I then found out Google Translate had not picked it up yet, but the EU observer had, quoting it as the trendiest word in Germany for this summer and meaning “being indecisive or failing to have an opinion”.

So my title could be translated as “When Merkel stops merkeling”. This German title was inspired to me a couple of weeks ago when she announced the Wilkommenspolitik with respect to Syrian refugees. I felt proud to be a European, a feeling I missed for some time – at least since the #JeSuisCharlie moment of this winter.

I was bitterly surprised by the closing of the border in Ventimiglia. Especially given that the French prime minister is himself an immigrant, and the son of a refugee. How could a government in which a third of the ministers were born out of Europe be so insensitive? This is a country which stood at the helm of the previous big Wilkommenspolitiken in Europe: the Vietnamese boat people in the ‘70s, the Afghans in the ‘80s and the Rwandese in the ‘90s be so blind to the destiny of refugees who mostly came from Syria, a country which France administered between the two European Civil Wars.

Some say Merkel’s reaction was not a leadership one, but – as usual – a faithful follower of German people moods. As many as 15 to 20 million Germans fled Eastern Europe after WWII, so many of the older ones remembered that the refugee concept was invented for them, hence the Wilkommenskultur reflex.

If this is true, why haven’t the Poles (who have been seeking refuge from most of their neighbours over the last century), the Hungarians (250.000 of which fled mostly to Germany in the ’50s after revolting against the Russian supported government) and the Czech/Slovaks (150.000 of whom did so in the ’60s – more at recognised in the Syrians fellow humans fleeing from a Russian supported dictatorship. What would have happened to their parents and elders if the then European Community would have reacted like the Orbans, the Ficos and the Klaus’

Others, including Euractiv, write “The Germans are selfish and do it only because they need the immigrants to fill in the jobs or the young to pay their pensions”. This is especially true in Italian newspapers. But, there, immigrants increasingly fill in the jobs young unemployed Italians do not want to do (such as caring for our kids, our sick or our elder Italians). Italy is a country older on average than Germany, which would then also need many immigrants to pay for future Italian pensions. Yet, immigrants are rather welcome, but not asked to stay.

Like she did in other occasions, such as when stopping all German nuclear energy sources after Fukushima, Merkel stopped merkeling. Reasons can be varied, but I think that her own experience in East Germany, seeing 20% of its fellow citizens seek refuge in the West after WWII and thousands march towards freedom, played a role. Seeing Müncheners, including elders in Lederhosen and Bayern footballers turn the Munich shame of the ‘30s in today’s München pride, must have helped.

Yet, thinking of the CDU she inherited 15 years ago, Chancellor Merkel brought it from 35% to almost 50% of votes over the last 10 years, made it accept a “black crow” childless woman as leader, homosexual rights, entry into war and abolition of military duties, the Energiewende and, lately, a minimum wage for all Germans.

After channelling much hatred in spring, due to the Grexit crisis, The Economist leadered last week on Germany’s increasing soft power ( Maybe more European leaders should start… merkeling.


NoA – This post is private and personal. It does not represent views of the Commission for which I work. Re-publishing is possible under Copyleft principles. I would appreciate being informed and quoted.

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