German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party is comfortably ahead of all contenders. Her approval rating, however, has not yet fully recovered after going into a tailspin following her handling of the 2015 migrant crisis.
The mass influx of refugees has a major impact on Germany’s national security situation. Back in August 2016, the head of the Bavarian department of the domestic intelligence agency (BfV), Manfred Hauser, warned that “hit squads” linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) might have infiltrated Germany posing as refugees.
His agency looked into “hundreds” of such cases, he said. In 2016, jihadists carried out five attacks, while the security services managed to prevent seven others, according to the BfV.
The deadliest incident occurred on December 19, 2016, when a 27-year-old rejected asylum-seeker – a Tunisian man named Anis Amri who had pledged allegiance to IS – plowed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, leaving 12 people dead and dozens injured. The assailant, who had previously been on the radar of the police, managed to flee the scene and reach Italy, where he was gunned down by police.
Just months earlier, in July, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee detonated an explosive device outside a music festival in the town of Ansbach, killing himself and injuring 12 others. That same month, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee with an axe assaulted train passengers near Wurzburg in central Germany, leaving five people injured. IS claimed responsibility for all of the attacks. The terrorist threat remains high, and the country “must expect further attacks by individuals or terror groups” which “may occur any time,” the head of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maassen, warned this March.
Germany failed to make a necessary assessment of the security situation following the New Year’s Eve incidents in Cologne, political analyst John Bosnitch told RT. He added that the authorities did little to effectively accelerate integration. As “long as the migrants with a different cultural background continue to maintain their own bloc within the German society… the possibility of integrating this group is going to decline, and it is going to become a much worse problem in Germany than it is today,” he said.
To somehow fix the situation and “equally” distribute migrants among the EU, Merkel’s government has been pushing (along with Brussels) for specific quotas. The goal of resettling 160,000 migrants was approved by the EU in September 2015.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has become one of the most vocal critics of the quota system, warning that its implementation might result in “tens of millions” of migrants coming to Europe. His concerns were strongly echoed by Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Denmark.
Resistance is not only due to quota systems themselves, Wimmer believes, but due to the lack of proper negotiations and the inability of Merkel to consult with anyone before announcing her open-border policy. “Everything in Europe happened because of the decision of one person – Mrs. Merkel,” Wimmer told RT. “That is the reason why the Poles, Hungarians, and others refuse to take Merkel’s migrants.”
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Wednesday dismissed a challenge by Slovakia and Hungary against the EU’s relocation policy for asylum-seekers, reiterating the EU’s right to force its members to accept the migrant quotas. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto slammed the decision, saying “Politics has raped European law.”
Another measure aimed at “fixing” the migrant crisis was signing the EU-Turkey deal in March of last year. Under the agreement, all “irregular” migrants arriving in Greece – if they do not apply for asylum or get their application rejected – will be returned to Turkey. For each Syrian returned to Turkey, one must be resettled in the EU.
This agreement, however, offers no solution to the problem by merely “outsourcing” it, according to Oxfam and other humanitarian groups. This criticism focuses in particular on the fears of human rights abuses of people in Turkish refugee camps. Prior to the deal, Merkel hailed the progress made with Turkey on the refugee issue, also envisioning a boost to Ankara’s EU membership process. Since then, relations between Turkey on one side, and the EU and Berlin on the other, have deteriorated, raising serious fears that the deal is falling apart.
With all the twists and turns in recent years, Chancellor Merkel has shown herself to be a political chameleon, political analyst John Bosnitch told RT. “If she manages to be re-elected, then she will have to find a new shape to take, a new political form, in other words, to be a chameleon once again,” Bosnitch said.