Expanding Community Juthika Hasan

What Next after the Berlin Attack? Merkel in Crisis

Germany has had a taxing year with domestic and international conflicts. Internally adopting an ‘open-door’ policy with migrants, the nation shows a globalist stance in an increasingly isolationist world. Chancellor Angela Merkel has received much criticism from opposition parties, and their concerns have been bolstered by the Berlin attack this past month. While the attack was from a Tunisian man who originally arrived in Italy, it still prompts questions of lax security policies and how he was able to arrive in Germany after being refused asylum over the summer.


Merkel continues to keep the border open for refugees from the Syrian conflict, especially since Germany has had no strict immigration policy after its defeat in World War II. Over a million entered in 2015, but only about half of those who entered the country have applied for asylum. Not all migrants are Syrians, with many from Afghanistan and Iraq. Germany has emerged as a nation fighting to include those who are fighting for their livelihood, but the rise in migrant numbers has alarmed German citizens, especially in light of several terrorist incidents this past year.


The Attacks on Germany


There was a string of assaults in Germany in July: a machete attack in Reutlingen, an axe attack on a train in Wuerzburg, a suicide bomber in Ansbach, and the deadliest of all, the mass shooting in Munich from a German-Iranian national. The mass shooting was not called a terrorist attack as the gunman was identified as having homicidal tendencies not related to Islamic fundamentalism. While these attacks were carried out by ‘lone wolves’, they raised concern in Germany of security threats, especially when the attackers were identified as being Middle- Eastern.


The recent Berlin truck plot is the largest terrorist attack in Germany this year, after the July shooting in Munich that killed nine individuals. The attacker, Tunisian-born Anis Amri had filmed a video in Munich declaring his allegiance to ISIS. Anis Amri was not a refugee who arrived during the open border initiative in Germany. He is rather a stateless migrant who travelled from country to country and faced deportation orders from Italy. The attacks in June were also not from migrants who arrived last summer, but two were perpetrated by Syrian refugees who fled to Germany beforehand. Nevertheless, tensions are running high against Merkel, and opposition parties are riding the wave of anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiments towards possible electoral victory.


The Response from Critics


Many far-right politicians in Germany have leaped at the opportunity to condemn the migrant policy as a way of making Germany unsafe. The main anti-immigrant party, Alternative for Germany party has been especially vocal in its anger, presenting as a policy platform “Islam does not belong in Germany”. Its policies have resonated with the German public, especially after the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015, with reports stating that the assailants were male migrants. The party is slated to be part of the German Parliament in 2017, with numbers polling from 10 to 12 percent of the vote.


Far-right parties are not the only opposition to the ‘open-door’ policy. The Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) urged Merkel to limit the number of refugees in Germany to 200 000 every year in July. After the Berlin attack, the leader of the CDU, Horst Seehofer, demanded a change in immigration and security policy. It is clear that there is a shift against Merkel from not just citizens, but opposition parties who may be able to overturn her policy if she is not elected in 2017.


What Merkel Faces in 2017


The CDU had a brutal loss in Merkel’s home district in September, coming in third to Social Democrats and Alternative for Germany, as many citizens hold anti-refugee sentiments and desire stricter controls for individuals seeking asylum in their country. Struggling with an international shift in isolationism and an upcoming election, Merkel will need to pacify her party and the opposition in order to hold onto her platform. She would be running for a fourth term in office, longer than most chancellors in Germany.


There is hope for a fourth term in office, as approval ratings hit a one-year high after the Berlin attacks. Merkel ordered a new review of security measures in December, such as video surveillance and speeding up the repatriation process of Tunisians who were denied asylum. She will also accelerate deportations for those who have been denied asylum. There is no indication that the door will slam shut for refugees, but there will be a drastic decrease in the number that Germany will take in. Merkel stands alone as a globalist leader in Europe, and she will need to remain strong in 2017 in order for Germany to remain a benevolent nation for migrants.

Photo: Press Conference of Angela Merkel after the Berlin attack (German Federal Chancellery) (2016), by Emilio Esbardo via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.

Juthika Hasan
Juthika Hasan recently obtained her Honours BA from the University of Toronto, specializing in Political Science. She is currently working in the Ministry of Education and has previously worked for the Ministry of Labour, Pay Equity Commission during her undergraduate studies. Her research interests include comparative public policy, global governance, and security crises in South Asia. She is planning to focus on researching provincial immigration and settlement policy and pursue a Master's degree in public administration. In the future, she hopes to continue her work in the Ontario Public Service as a policy analyst.