Seminar in 2018
Europe, and the Integration of Refugees
Challenges, Successes and Failures
| Save the date:
18 to 28 June in Berlin, Germany
The program design and the highlights are not determined yet, only the dates.
Much of what is going to happen next year,
and after, depends on the results of Germany's Federal Election on
September 24, 2017.
"Could migration derail Merkel re-election express?
is coming under renewed fire over her refugee policies as Germany's
election battleground heats up. Left-wing rival Martin Schulz has added
his voice to long-standing criticism from the right.
For months, Social Democratic (SPD) candidate Martin Schulz has been
trying - and failing - to find an issue to eat away at conservative
Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity. In conversation with the Sunday
edition of Germany's Bild newspaper, Schulz took aim at what is perhaps
Merkel's Achilles heel: her policy toward migrants from Muslim
"In 2015 more than 1 million refugees came to Germany, mostly without
government monitoring," Schulz told Bild. "The chancellor opened our
border with Austria for humanitarian reasons but unfortunately without
consulting our partners in Europe. If we don't act now, that situation
could repeat itself."
Merkel has promised German voters
that there will be no repeat of what happened two years ago when
hundreds of thousands of people, many fleeing war-torn Syria, arrived
in Germany. Numbers of migrants lessened last year but could well be
set to rise again as people try to escape political uncertainty and
economic hardship of places like Nigeria and Eritrea via North African
countries like Libya.
Well over 70,000 migrants made the extremely risky Mediterranean
crossing to Italy in the first half of this year, representing an
increase over 2016 of more than 25 percent. Italy has asked other EU
states for help in dealing with the new arrivals, but it has so far
been rebuffed. Schulz, who is set to travel to Italy on Thursday, says
the EU commission should pay other member states to take in migrants
and accuses Merkel of calculated inaction before Germany's September
"Those who play for time and try to ignore the issue until the national election are just being cynical," Schulz said.
At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 and early 2016, Merkel and
her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) fell to historic lows in
public opinion polls, with more than 80 percent of those asked saying
they believed her government didn't have control over the situation.
Merkel and her party have since recovered and currently lead Schulz and
the SPD by around 15 percentage points in opinion surveys.
Merkel, who's currently on vacation and had no public appearances
scheduled for Sunday, didn't immediately respond to Schulz's criticism.
And perhaps her main problem on the migrant issue is not from the
Social Democrats at all.
Attacks from other conservatives
Although Schulz may have been trying to capitalize on the issue,
Merkel, arguably, has no big reason to fear attacks from the left. As
the junior coalition partners in her current government, the SPD
supported her welcoming policy toward refugees. The greater threat
could come from the right, where Merkel is considerably more liberal
than the vast majority of conservatives in Germany and the rest of
The larger the number of migrants grows, the greater the pressure to
restrict the flow of people from the Middle East and Northern Africa to
Europe. During the week, for instance, Austria's conservative foreign
minister, Sebastian Kurz, threatened to close down the Brenner Pass
between his country and Italy if the number of illegal migrants to
And Merkel has also come under fire on the issue from the CDU's
Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). On Sunday, the
CSU publicly celebrated its platform for the election, entitled the
"Bavaria Plan." It calls for the annual number of refugees to Germany
to be capped at 200,000 - an idea Merkel has rejected.
CSU chairman Horst Seehofer couldn't resist calling out the chancellor
on the issue. In an interview with Welt newspaper, Seehofer said
"everybody knows" that the "waves of migration will continue." Seehofer
predicted that Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders would cost
the CDU-CSU an absolute majority in September's election and claimed
that conservatives throughout Germany were coming round to the CSU's
"Because the orientation on refugee policy has changed in our
direction, it is again possible to work with the CDU credibly,"
Seehofer added that the conservatives' resurgence in opinion polls was
down in part to a harder line taken on migrants. And he invoked the
specter of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).
"What I think is most important now is to use clever policies to push
the AfD below the 5-percent hurdle (needed for parliamentary
representation in Germany)," Seehofer said. "That can only happen if we
continue to be smart in our policies on security, Turkey, refugees and
Parallel trends between migrants and populism
The connection between refugee policy and the AfD cannot be dismissed.
Germany's right-wing populists made a quantum leap in the polls, taking
over 20 percent of the vote in some regional German elections in 2016,
as the effects of the mass arrivals in the preceding years became
But when the Balkan migration route was largely closed, the number of
refugees dropped, and the AfD's fortunes took a corresponding downturn.
The party currently attracts between 7 and 9 percent in the
opinion-polls. The downswing is due to party in-fighting, but also to
the general sense among the populace that the refugee "crisis" is
The loss of support for the AfD roughly coincides with the
conservatives' revival in opinions polls. But that trend itself could
very well reverse if the increasing number of migrants coming to Italy
results in a spike in new arrivals to Germany before the election.
A study published by the Bertelsmann Foundation last November found
that fear of globalization was the main driver of support for
right-wing populism in Europe, and that the issue of refugees played
the largest role in constituting that fear.
Political scientists say that migrants and refugees are the single
biggest issue inspiring people to vote for the AfD, and that AfD
supporters tend to be single-issue voters. An analysis done by the
Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper after one of the AfD's biggest triumphs
in September 2016 showed that 82 percent of the party's voters said
that immigration was a major issue. And 17 percent of voters in general
said the AfD was best equipped of all the parts to deal with refugees -
on other issues, the party struggled to escape the low single digits on
the competence question.
All of this suggests that the upturn in the number of migrants to
Germany this summer would benefit the AfD at the polls and possibly
have an effect on Angela Merkel's attempt to win a fourth term as
| This article by die Deutsche Welle characterises
some of the issues that are currently discussed with regard to the
September 2017 election. We keep you posted and will develop a
preliminary program for the summer 2018 Faculty Seminar asap after the
political decisions have been made.
information or questions please email