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How to respond to the victory of Le Pen?
Nous en avons marre. We are fed up. That’s the message the French conveyed Sunday on their ballot papers. The reaction of the French political, intellectual and cultural elite has been as predictable as it is wrong: the victor has been demonised, the voter moralised and the problems raised, ignored.
The victory of Front National is no isolated incident, but is the umpteenth sombre omen. Great Britain debates Brexit. The Danes have rejected the EU justice policy. The Swedes are abandoning their policy of hospitality. And in Eastern Europe, resistance against the European framework is brewing.
Europeans are worried. Uncontrolled mass migration puts pressure on our social fabric. The terror threat has stretched our society to its limits. Existential unease is widespread: can Europe take this, not only materially, but also culturally? The high price we pay for this is our eroding sense of tolerance.
The people want their leaders to come up with solutions. Gradually, calls to close national borders are heard. I find this undesirable. It will lead to disinvestments, increasing unemployment and general impoverishment. Do we want that kind of an economic catastrophe?
However, I do plead for a separate social status for refugees. Access tobecomes a citizen’s right obtained by contributing to the system. Whoever is recognised as a refugee can systematically build up social rights until they have full access to social security.
In addition, Europe needs real outer borders, if needs be by removing Greece from the Schengen zone temporarily, or by forming a mini-Schengen zone. Europe must also carry out push backs to safe countries and organise shelter in its own region.
The trouble with all these solutions is that it is either prohibited by Europe, or no consensus can be found in Europe. Just like a monetary union without urgent convergence criteria left us in the lurch, a migration dispute without closed outer borders is bound to magnify our strife.
We are not allowed to instate border control, while Greece leaves the Schengen front door wide open. The European Court prohibits push backs. Theoretically, according to the Dublin treaty, we may send asylum seekers back to their country of entry, but not to Greece, because it does not organise shelter. As a result, Merkel unilaterally revoked Dublin.
The broken European framework leads to an absurd situation: the EU does not reprimand Greece, but instead reprimands countries which try their best to enforce European rules. We are straightjacketed from respecting the will of our own people. Everyone is looking at everyone else: who will be the first to dare tread outside the European framework? But we keep waiting.
The only one to take action is Angela Merkel. With her “Wir schaffen das”, she not only invited all refugees to Germany, but to all of Western Europe as well. Until Germany also couldn’t handle the influx any more. Then she went grovelling to the only country that actually controls the flow of refugees: Turkey.
I have to say: hats off to Erdogan. Geopolitically speaking, he has played the game masterfully. If Turkey opens the floodgates, the flow pours forth. If Turkey closes the floodgates, the flow ceases. He has the EU in his grasp and can use the flow of refugees to pull our strings.
Merkel sold Europe out and accepted all of Turkey’s demands: joining the EU, cancelling Turkish visa obligations and providing funds for shelter. In exchange, Turkey must organise the push backs (or rather: pull backs) that Europe can no longer carry out due to European ruling. Could the situation descend any further into madness?
I hope Ms. Merkel studies the French election result closely, and understands that something is seriously wrong. The key is not in France, but in Germany. Merkel will have to make a change. Only if Germany tilts, will European policy tilt.
Some Germans see a unique chance to finally repay a moral debt. I can understand that. However, Germany must also be aware of its historical position: “too big for Europe, too small for the world.” When Merkel issued her sentimental welcome, she single-handedly put the European dream at stake.
I know I am no more than a roaring mouse. I hold no illusions as to the impact of my words. However, as a European, I am also worried about the European dream.
Opinion piece by Bart De Wever, published in NRC Handelsblad on 10 December 2015