In Germany, the situation after the arson in the Greek refugee camp Moria has been the main public problem for days. TV channels bring special programs. Municipalities and states are prepared to take in refugees from there. The pressure is effective.
What will Germany propose?
The federal government is on the move, but wants to avoid false signals – this is the formula on which Monday’s grand coalition efforts for significantly expanded aid from Germany to the Moria refugees were based. In the European network, more people must now be taken from the Greek island of Lesbos, without German politics sending the signal to the world that every refugee is welcome here.
The SPD had already exerted pressure last week: Germany must help. SPD leader Saskia Esken demanded the admission of thousands of refugees on Monday morning. Meanwhile, the CDU met behind closed doors. It soon became clear that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party is also willing to help more refugees in the face of the suffering.
The plans of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) do not only see the SPD as inadequate – CDU members of the Bundestag and mayors of both parties also campaigned to bring more stranded people from Moria to Germany. Seehofer said on Friday that ten European countries wanted to take in 400 unaccompanied minors from Moria. 100 to 150 of them should come to Germany.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed that the federal government is advising to help more refugees. With the prospect of an early decision, Seibert coupled the message that no precedent should be set for other refugees who wanted to come to Germany. After the camp fire “a unique emergency arose,” he said.
The background to Seibert’s reference is the fear that humanitarian action without this restriction could create an “attraction effect”, that is, encourage more refugees to come to Germany.
For the SPD, the Greens and the Left, he is the bogeyman: Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) in the Bundestag debate on Moria Photo: dpa
Chancellor Angela Merkel now wants a decision from Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. In the CDU committees, she stated that no progress could be made without the Greek government, which is why she wanted to contact Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Merkel wanted to propose building a new camp on Lesvos under European responsibility, the CDU said.
The advantage from their point of view: even EU states such as Hungary, which do not accept refugees, would then have to contribute to the funding. The government leaders of Austria and the Netherlands, Kurz and Rutte, who are now holding back a European solution, criticized them at the meeting. In addition, the Chancellor wants to propose on the Greek side to bring recognized refugees from the country to Germany in order to ease the situation on Lesbos.
How do the EU partners view the situation?
Sweden and Austria initially supported Angela Merkel in 2015. 2020 no more. “Sweden is busy with itself”, says Lotta Lundberg, correspondent for “Svenska Dagbladet”. In 2015, Sweden took in the most refugees per capita. Their integration is considered a failure, as is the whole of European refugee policy. “We can’t”, is the vote. Sweden would probably participate in a European solution under pressure. If the Germans, Norwegians and Danes participate, the Swedes would be ashamed not to.
In Austria, Moria is one of the three main subjects, says Ewald König, head of the Berlin Correspondents Office. Because of the domestic political consequences. Accept it or not, is the problem in the turquoise-green coalition under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP). The Greens were afraid to ask the coalition question because they were bringing the populist FPÖ back into play. In terms of population, Austria has also received more refugees than Germany since 2015. Distinguish yourself for a moment with a dual message of humanity and toughness. He sends tents with heating and hygiene facilities, doctors and paramedics to Moria. And at the same time warns against the admission of all refugees from there to other EU countries. Because that would be a signal that one only needs to torch camps to force admission.
Merkel wants to convince him: the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Photo: AFP
Moria is an excellent subject for France, but it is not discussed as intensely and emotionally as in Germany, says Pascal Thibaut, correspondent for Radio France Internationale. There is no comparable movement of municipalities willing to participate. But President Emmanuel Macron wants to organize a “coalition of the willing” with Merkel.
In Italy, Moria is one of the top ten subjects, says Tonia Mastrobuoni of the newspaper “Repubblica”, but not one of the top three. Italy does not see itself as an obligation, it has already taken in more than enough refugees. Like Greece, it sees itself as a victim of the lack of a European migration policy. German and French impulses are seen as useful. Forming a coalition of the willing is not a permanent solution.
Denmark and the Netherlands have been pursuing a more restrictive migration policy than Germany for years. Moria is an important international issue, but “not a front page”, says Uffe Dreesen, Berlin correspondent for “TV 2 Danmark”. Refugees are seen more as a problem than a task to be solved. There is no broad movement demanding their inclusion.
In the Netherlands, foreclosure is the goal of the ruling conservatives, explains Rob Savelberg of De Telegraaf. The green mayor of Amsterdam and the mayor of Morocco of Rotterdam urged the acceptance of refugees. The compromise: The Netherlands is ready to take in 500 minors and 500 other refugees. On one condition: you will not be added, but will be counted towards the contingent that the land was ready for before the fire.
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In Poland, you can watch the news for hours without hearing a word about Moria. In the Czech Republic, the state of emergency is only a marginal problem, says Pavel Polak of the daily newspaper “Denik N”. The fire has been reported, but not what should happen to those affected. The general attitude, also among the co-ruling Social Democrats, is: we will not accept it.
What is the European Union planning?
Less than a week after the fires in Lesvos, EU countries are still struggling to find a coordinated response. As emergency aid, ten Member States – including Germany and France – have so far committed to take in a total of 400 unaccompanied children from Moria.
Moreover, according to the responsible Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, a new asylum seekers center will be built on Lesvos with the financial help of the Brussels government. Schinas expects the Greek authorities to build a modern center on the island that can be used to conduct asylum procedures in place of the burned-down camp. The European Commission has also offered to help manage the planned new asylum center – provided the Greek government asks it to do so.
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At the end of September, the EU will finally present its proposal for the reform of the European asylum system. The proposal aims to resolve the dispute between the EU Member States over the distribution of migrants, which has been dormant since the 2015 refugee crisis. According to all that is known about the Brussels newspaper, a system for the distribution of refugees will also play a role in the EU. It is expected that the new proposal from the Brussels authority will also take into account the position of the Eastern European member states. Countries such as Poland and Hungary reject a mandatory quota for the reception of refugees. For years, there has been discussion about making these states more responsible for financing the protection of the EU’s external borders, if they do not want to accept refugees.
The surveillance of the EU’s external borders, of which the Commission wants more staff, should also play an important role in the Brussels proposal. In the EU’s view, it should be possible to speed up asylum procedures at external borders better than in the past.
However, the approval of the Greek government is a prerequisite for many of the Union’s plans. It is unclear which plans she is committed to. According to experts, in the past she had consciously accepted the terrifying effect of the inhuman conditions in the camp on other refugees.