A state of emergency? European order rests on German order

Written by André Ken Jakobsson, Ph.D. Candidate at Center for War Studies

The ultimate geopolitical success story of modern Europe must be the impressive transformation of Germany, going from eternal headache to the front runner of European integration. Angela Merkel has upheld this position of Germany during several crises, arguing for a united European response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, picking up the bill of the Euro-crisis but also dictating the rules to countries in economic distress as well as forcefully arguing for a common European policy on the current migrant crisis.

While Merkel has been able to skillfully maneuver the past crises both domestically and internationally (although she did face a domestic challenge on the constitutionality of the European Stability Mechanism and saw a huge backlash in especially Greece), the continuing influx of migrants to Germany seems to be the real test of both German and European unity. The German magazine Der Spiegel accounts for “the end of the Merkel era” and in only two gloomy sentences, the magazine gives everyone concerned with European stability reason to have nightmares: “The government, in short, has lost control. And Germany is in a state of emergency.” It seems odd for a German magazine to use the concept of being in a “state of emergency” so haphazardly, seeing as Germany is in no way in either a de facto nor de jure state of emergency but it should raise awareness to the issue of Germany’s European role.

Hundreds of attacks on refugee shelters in Germany and the PEGIDA movement gaining momentum is the dangerous voice of unrest and resistance towards the official German refugee policy. But also at the political level, there is unrest. The Bavarian sister party and government-partner to Merkel’s CDU, Horst Seehofer’s CSU, is getting “increasing rebellious” speaking of a disaster unfolding and from within the CDU there are voices of skepticism as well. One local CDU member voiced her fear of Merkel “threatening to divide Europe” and the official diagnosis of the internal wellbeing of the party is that it has deteriorated to a “dramatic” degree.

Germany holds a special kind of obligation when it comes to European stability – with great power comes great responsibility – and that necessitates order at home. European order cannot exist without German order and Merkel’s Germany seems to be testing the glue of its own state as well as Europe as such: “Merkel's decision to open the border was correct. There was a humanitarian emergency and there was no time for lengthy consideration. But even correct decisions can have undesired consequences. Merkel failed to strongly state that taking in refugees in this way was an exception. It created the impression that Germany was prepared to accept every refugee who came to Europe. She didn't mean it that way, but that was the message that many wanted to hear.” The answer to these undesired consequences have outside of Germany been national solutions and fences, all of which signals a disintegration of European unity. 

Read the full-length analysis of the German “state of emergency” here.