Angela Merkel, the refugee crisis, and Christianity

Today’s big news is that a joint survey for RTL and Stern magazine by Forsa shows that Angela Merkel seems to have weathered the refugee crisis. Her popularity, which suffered between August 2015 and February 2016, has been restored to levels that existed prior to the refugee crisis. Fifty-two percent of Germans now say that they prefer having Merkel as chancellor over anybody else. In the last few months her approval rating had slipped to as low as 44%, and it was Merkel’s open-door policies that were blamed for electoral losses for her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and for the rise of a right-wing populist party called Alternative Germany (AfD). But according to this last Forsa survey, AfD now has only 10% support (down from 13%) while Merkel’s conservative bloc would capture 36% of the votes if elections were held now. Her socialist rival, Sigmar Gabriel, who would be her challenger for the post of chancellor, would receive only 13% of the votes.

This boost in Merkel’s popularity is attributed by commentators to her successful negotiations, which led to an agreement between the European Union and Turkey resulting in a considerable decrease in the number of new arrivals in Greece. In fact, there are days when not a single refugee lands on any of the Greek islands. Despite all the criticism of the deal, Europe, or to be precise Germany, now has some breathing space, which will allow the German government to work out the details of the settlement and integration of about one million refugees.

This is not good news for Viktor Orbán. The scary internet site, kvota.kormany.hu, will surely not update its information any time soon and will keep repeating, as it did today, that every 12 seconds a new “migrant” arrives in Europe, with a frightening-looking timer counting down the seconds. The site, as its address indicates, is against “compulsory quotas,” which according to government propaganda would mean the forcible settlement of 160,000 migrants. Such a compulsory settlement would increase the danger of terrorist acts, it would threaten Hungarian culture, and, on top of everything else, it would cost a lot of money. According to their estimate, the upkeep of one single refugee would cost taxpayers 130,000 forints a month. The Hungarian minimum wage is only 105,000 per month.

While the government engages in such primitive propaganda, government financed newspapers are full of horror stories about the situation in Germany, Sweden, and Finland. Merkel’s policies, they argue, lead to a dead end. Here are a few op/ed articles from Magyar Idők. On March 27 a certain “retired lawyer,” who has become Magyar Idők’s favorite guest contributor, wrote a piece on Europe where people “vote here and there, keeping traitorous politicians in power who have already sold them to the forces of international financial oligarchs.” In this undemocratic Europe “Angela Merkel is a fanatical believer in immigration and the migrants’ dispersion in the member states.” The author actually calls on the German people to dispose of her because “there isn’t much time and delay is deadly.” Citizens of Europe should “take their future into their own hands and turn these traitorous politicians out.”

Merkel2

On March 18 another opinion piece was published on Angela Merkel. The author, László J. Kiss, gleefully noted that “Angela Merkel is already paying a political price” for her policies. He was, of course, referring to the elections in three German states: North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, and Baden-Württemberg. The author was ecstatic about the success of AfD, which “rejects Merkel’s refugee policies.” According to the author, the appearance of AfD may have far-reaching consequences. In fact, it may foreshadow “the possibility of the road to a new Third German Republic.” The transformation of the Bonn republic to the Berlin republic was not as spectacular as the change from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich. In fact, it was “an uninteresting process.” A simple extension of West Germany to the East. But perhaps here is the opportunity. Although, according to Kiss, AfD is not an extremist party, its political leaders are talking about “a real revolution” which may lead to the end of the rule of the old 1968 generation. It is also possible that AfD will put an end to the left-liberal ideology that currently permeates Germany. Clearly, Magyar Idők would be delighted to see a “real revolution,” I guess the kind Viktor Orbán brought about in Hungary. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” one is inclined to say. Anyone who’s grounded in reality must recognize the total absurdity of an Orbán-like revolution in today’s Germany.

A few days later György Nógrádi, a national security expert with a checkered career, claimed that the German people “want a strategic about-face from their chancellor.” At the beginning of March the editors of Magyar Idők were certain that an agreement with Turkey was unlikely. The pro-government propaganda paper was keeping fingers crossed for Angela Merkel to fail and be removed from power. Such a stance is not at all surprising because, after all, Angela Merkel is the polar opposite of everything Viktor Orbán represents.

In this connection I would like call attention to an article by Professor Jan-Werner Mueller of Princeton University, who has written several articles and studies about Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. The German-born Mueller has family ties to Hungary. The article, “Angela Merkel’s Misunderstood Christian Mission,” appeared in Foreign Policy (March 18, 2016).

Mueller looks at Merkel’s negotiations with Turkey “in the context of the broader moral campaign that she has been waging.” He thinks that “Merkel is effectively forcing believers in Europe to choose between her own brand of ‘compassionate conservatism’ and the ‘Christian, national’ vision of a Fortress Europe propounded by leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński.” After summarizing in a couple of paragraphs the history of Christian Democracy in Germany, he describes Merkel’s “politics of small, carefully calculated steps [which] became her trademark, even globally.” But “everything changed [w]hen Merkel opened the borders for the refugees who were being mistreated in Hungary, she took a clear stance—and has stuck with it even in the face of ever more personal criticisms from within her own party.”

Observers have been debating her motives, and it seems that Mueller thinks that Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, is someone who would like to put the ‘C’ back into CDU. Merkel sees “both Islam and Christianity as having a place in Germany … as springs of moral conduct.” Sixty-one percent of Germans identify themselves as Christians, and “she has thrown down a moral challenge to her people … actually to live their faith.” The churches in Germany do support the chancellor, unlike some politicians in her own party who “declared that an ‘uncontrolled influx of refugees’ was ‘not Christian.’”

Merkel’s critics at home find supporters farther east. Viktor Orbán “was the first to shut the border to refugees in the name of defending a ‘Christian’ Europe. For him, Christianity designates a national culture closed in on itself, as opposed to a set of universal precepts. In [his] rhetoric, ‘openness’ means unfettered capitalism and unlimited individual choices…. For Orbán, Christianity serves as a convenient instrument to conduct identity politics; for Merkel, it is a way to talk about Europe’s moral integrity.”

At the end of his essay, Mueller quotes Rainer Bucher, a Catholic theologian according to whom Merkel “is presenting European Christians with a stark choice: Orbán or Francis?” It seems to me that Francis and Merkel are coming out on top.

March 30, 2016
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Observer
Guest

Congratulations Eva! Don’t know how do you manage this volume, we can’t finish our comments before the next post comes.

Glad to see that the Germans are not buying the cheap populism like the Hungarians do. I am against mass immigration, but all the way with Merkel’s kind of humane treatment.

BTW I’m rather with Richard Dawkins on religion and one of points there is the disgusting hypocrisy and pursuit of self interest by the main churches in Hungary. Nothing Christian and all politics.

Guest

If history is a guide arguably some old time religion is better than none at all. So far the existence of a very laid-back and silent Church in a going to who knows where Magyarorszag hasn’t brought out the extremes of Dawkins’ scientific materialism and rationalism as we’ve seen previously in the last century.

It remains to be seen if any true and solid ecumenism can get traction in the society. And if there is continuing religious piety it will be in service not to a God but more in the service of the state.

Istvan
Guest
I would suggest that those concerned with the EU deal with Turkey understand that European military forces could be required to intervene in Libya in order to contain the flow of refugees into the EU. If you go to this document https://wikileaks.org/eu-military-refugees/EEAS/EEAS-2016-126.pdf which was released last month by wikileaks you will see a highly detailed report from Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino of the Italian Navy, for the European Union Military Committee and the Political and Security Committee of the EU. The reality is once the route from Turkey is cut off, essentially with an EU payoff to Turkey in direct funding and opening access of Turkish citizens to open travel to the EU what is called the central Mediterranean Route via Libya will pick up the flow. Libya is a failed state and ISIL has an enclave within Libya. The report by the Italian Admiral presses the responsible EU bodies to help speed up the process of forming a ‘reliable’ government in Libya that in return is expected to ‘invite’ EU forces to operate within their Territorial Waters and later even give permission to extend the EU military operations onshore. This plan appears to be in its early phases right… Read more »
webber
Guest

Too many ifs to bother with.

Guest
Mrs Merkel has long been the target of the extreme fascist right (to which imho the AfD, or at least many of its leaders belong) – the craziest “constipation theories” (my joke) you’ll find are that she’s a representative of Communism and the New World Order (you surely know what/whom that means and is targeted at …) and that her family is Jewish and from Poland originally … And no, I’m not making that up. there are sites which will tell you that – I won’t give links because I find them so abhorrent. Btw I’m also areligious on the level of Dawkins. A friend who is a biology prof gave me one of his books as a birthday present many years ago and I discovered that I had been thinking along his lines … But I respect Mrs Merkel who is a “Good Christian” compared to say those lunatics in the USA. And even more OT re the elections in Germany: It looks now that the Greens which won the elections again overwhelmingly in Baden-Württemberg (My family and me are very proud as Schwabs, we’ve already had a Green mayor!) will form a coalition government – with the Christian… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Merkel is a wonder: an astute person with empathy and gravitas.
Europe is mightily fortunate to have her in these difficult times.

When she will retire in Germany…can we not get her to lead Hungary for 10 years?

bimbi
Guest
It is reassuring to read that the majority of German citizens support Chancellor Merkel’s policy with respect to immigrants from the Middle East and that “she has thrown down a moral challenge to her people … actually to live their faith” and the people are responding. Good too, to read that churches in Germany support the Chancellor’s compassionate policies. How unlike the situation in Hungary! Here Emperor Orbán defines “openness” only in terms of the EU’s purse strings to which he and his fellow despoilers should have continued and unfettered access. (If the figure of 130,000 HUF/immigrant/month is accurate and we know that the minimum wage to be 105,000 HUF for a family – it just goes to indicate how much “skimming” has been built into the state apparatus so that officials can benefit even from support of the few immigrants that Hungary has.) And what of the Apostolic Catholic Church in Mayarország? Not one peep comes from its saintly leaders in support of Christian principles and immigration! (People trafficking, people trafficking!) The church as an organization has, like the government, given itself utterly to Mammon – “Give us the Money, it is ours by right!”, sucking at the tax-payer’s… Read more »
Guest
Change the pronouns and arguably Merkel as German leader comes into view in this description of the responsibilities inherent in high office. Maybe it could be night- table reading for all in ‘illiberal’ Parliaments. ‘When, Mr. President, a man becomes a member of this body he cannot even dream of the ordeal to which he cannot fail to be exposed; Of how much courage he must possess to resist temptations which daily beset him; Of that sensitive shrinking from undeserved censure which he must learn to control; Of the ever recurring contest between a natural desire for public approbation and a sense of public duty; Of the load of injustice he must be content to bear , even from those who should be his friends; The imputations of his motives; The sneers and sarcasms of ignorance and malice ; All the manifold injuries which partisan or private malignity, disappointed of its objects , may shower upon his unprotected head. All this, Mr President, if he would retain his integrity, he must learn to bear unmoved, and walk steadily onward in the path of duty, sustained only by the reflection that time may do him justice, or if not, that after… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

Is the Guardian checking this blog?

An article today, pressing the Hungarian govt for evidence of its nonsensical claim that there are 900 no-go zones in the EU.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/31/hungary-anti-migrant-site-900-no-go-areas-eu

bimbi
Guest

The Guardian has just come out with an article telling us that the Orban government has counted the “no-go” areas in West European cities and has come up with a total of 900!:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/31/hungary-anti-migrant-site-900-no-go-areas-eu

This and other lies and nonsense comes from the website “kvota.kormany.hu”, which parades under the banner of “kormány információ”. The standard Fidesz/KDNP tactic is run up the flag pole again: Lies, Lies and more Lies.

Orban, Rogan, Matolcsy, Lazar can’t be wrong, can they?

Not to be outdone, Hungary, of course, has its own no-go area – the Emperor’s summer estate at Alsocsut.

Reality Check
Guest

444.hu is making a lot of fun this. One of the no-go zones is in the Berlin “Hipster” district and they want to hear from the brave Hungarians who dare venture into the no-go zones.

This idea of no-go zones has been something pushed by far-right organizations for some time now.

Istvan
Guest

This statement by Pukli, Pilz, and Katalin on yesterday’s actions at schools around Hungary appeared today http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1089837-pukliek-igy-ertekeltek-a-marcius-30-i-akciot The statement indicates that actions took place outside of at “least 300 schools and more than 7,000 people participated in the demonstration.” This number of schools is higher than the largest number reported yesterday, but the crowd totals are smaller than the largest estimates made yesterday. There is no breakdown on the 7,000 or more crowd, so the number of teachers participating is apparently unknown, as were the number of school administrators, parents, or community activists.

petofi
Guest

re: the smallness of the crowds

Hungarians are justifiably wary of raggedy-looking street-persons wielding $1000 cameras and filming…rather than looking for their next bottle of hooch…

Hajra Magyarok!!

petofi
Guest

Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, has been ordered by the court to repay 15 million dollars he misappropriated from government funds to fix up his private home. Apparently, he has asked to visit privately with Mr. Orban…

petofi
Guest

(How did that video end up in the middle of my comment?)

webber
Guest

The same thing has happened to a lot of comments. Hijacking? Malware?
I suggest not clicking on videos until Eva and crew sort this out.

RMW
Guest

“Merkel sees “both Islam and Christianity as having a place in Germany … as springs of moral conduct.” ”
What kind of ‘Islamic moral conduct’ are we talking about? The same ones that rule in places like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Brunei?

“This boost in Merkel’s popularity is attributed by commentators to her successful negotiations, which led to an agreement between the European Union and Turkey resulting in a considerable decrease in the number of new arrivals in Greece.”
So what does it mean now that migrant arrivals are rising sharply again?
http://www.euronews.com/2016/03/30/sharp-rise-in-new-migrant-arrivals-to-greece-despite-eu-turkey-deal/

webber
Guest

What happens now? Who knows? Nobody has a crystal ball here.
What is clear now, though, is that Orban has had no effect on German politics. He’s a loser.

RMW
Guest

So what exactly is the ‘winning’ position? Endorse Islam?

webber
Guest

Please don’t make yourself look ridiculous with questions like that.
In case you really are that stupid, I will explain what I mean:There are a lot of choices between Orban’s idiocy and the idiocy of endorsing any religion.

RMW
Guest

It is Merkel that wants Islam in Germany.

webber
Guest

I’ll put it even more bluntly: please don’t make yourself look like an idiot. She “wants” nothing of the sort. (Incidentally, and just fyi: Muslims were in Germany long before Merkel came to power)

petofi
Guest

I have, of late, come to the realization that those who pretend to be idiots…are not always ‘pretending’!

RMW
Guest

Again:
“Merkel sees “both Islam and Christianity as having a place in Germany…..”

Guest

Sure, but most Germans (like me, my family and friends …) are areligious anyway – so what’s the big deal?

PS:
You forgot the Jews – and of course Hindi, Buddhists, the Pastafarians etc …
They’re all welcome as long as they respect our democracy’s values – which Orbán and his illiberal kakistocracy don’t!

RMW
Guest
Hans
Guest

Germans are Christians or Pagan. These others are not Germans. Germany is the nation not a set of “values” that most people do not agree on anyway.

Guest

Troll!

Hongst
Guest

you just saw your mom, right?

Observer
Guest

@RMW and other ignoramuses

FYI The winning position was introduced approx. 200 years ago in the USA and France and has since been adopted in most developed countries: SECULAR STATE and strictly private religion for all denominations.

RMW
Guest

I understand Iran’s then leaders aggressively tried to do a secular state in Iran. The secular system was soundly defeated and overthrown by their great Islamic Revolution.
Secularism may be powerless to stop Islam.

Member
Two nice not-completely-OT links for today. I wonder if Szíjjártó (BTW, did anyone here read Péter Konok’s hilarious “sci-fi” piece featuring “CR2, the impolite protocol droid”?) will summon the ambassadors of Germany and Estonia to explain these provocations: 1. The FB group “Tolerant Estonia” published an April Fools’ joke with the leaders of the extreme right-wing populist party EKRE stating that they are planning to quit their activities in Estonia and move to Hungary to join forces with their great role model Viktor Orbán. “Even if our support in Estonia, thanks to fear-mongering with refugees, has risen to unprecedented heights, studying sociological analyses has convinced us that the majority of Estonians will never support extremist movements to such an extent that we could obtain power. Since in Estonia our chances to gain dictatorship are nil – unless we could get the defence forces and their support organizations on our side and seize power with their help – we will try our luck in Hungary. Hungarians are our kindred people, so we hope that you will accept us, and should Orbán for any reason leave his position, we are ready to lead the Hungarian people and to build a Great Wall… Read more »
Guest

And Estonian children are among the best on the PISA scale – maybe there is a connection?

A bit OT re German humour:
Did you read about Turkey’s Erdogan being very angry at some tv satire?He ordered the German ambassador to have this piece deleted …

PS:
Thanks, Sen-San for the link to the video – there are more than 15 000 comments on it already and of course a lot of the usual racist stuff, horrible in a way …

Observer
Guest

Tnx. Great German clip.

Hongst
Guest

why should a nation that is perfectly content with its isolation admit to its country even good neighbours in any considerable number? I want neither your honey nor your sting”, is a reasonable answer.

Member

Hongst, why should a nation which is a member of the EU and happily accepts millions of euros in development subsidies cooperate with other EU countries in dealing with the refugee crisis, instead of just sending those desperate people further to other nations more conscious of their moral responsibilities in this globalizing world?

Zoli
Guest
Merkel’s popularity is rebounding, which should be expected. It took a beating due to her policy on migrants, but once she aligned her policy with that of Orban, yes, with that of Orban, of turning migrants away, she is now rebounding. Of course, she is not turning them away at the border with Germany, because she does not have to resort to it. The border closures along the route, together with the Turkey-EU deal did that for her, giving her the opportunity to claim that she never put a cap on migrants I guess this shows that Germany is powerful enough in the EU that she was able to get the EU to do her dirty work for her, while Orban was criticized last year for doing the same by building a fence. Her approval ratings have nothing to do with her abilities BTW. Her high approval ratings have everything to do with Germany’s ability to benefit from the introduction of the Euro. While for many Euro currency members, it has been a disaster, with the youth unemployment rate currently over 20% in 9 Eurozone countries, Including France, Germany’s youth unemployment rate is only 7%, thanks to the fact that… Read more »
1848-Deak
Guest

Orban is hardly a Hungarian or European entity.
He was praising the Iranian, Kazhak, Turkish, Syrian etc leaders, as he had to support the anti-American directives from Moscow.
Moscow weaponized the Syrians, and Orban poured more oil on that fire, too.
Why is it so easy to dup Zolis of Hungary?

Zoli
Guest

My comment was in regards to the merger of views between Orban and Merkel, which the article tried to ignore, and also about Merkel’s popularity. Try to keep to the subject!

Guest

You are just a troll – and an idiot too!

There is no “merger of views between Orban and Merkel” at all – no one in Germany (except a few fascist loonies in the AfD) wants an illiberal kakistocracy like in Hungary!

Zoli
Guest

There is consensus on the fact that the migrant flow has to be stopped by turning people back, which is what the EU-Turkey deal does. And Merkel was the driving force behind forging that deal. It just took her and other EU leaders about a year to reach this conclusion, due to their utopic views, as well as the utopic world-view of many of their supporters, while Orban had it right all along. Fact is that what was Hungary’s position from the very beginning, is now the official EU position, no matter how much lipstick you want to put on it.

Guest

Troll – did you read the article at all?