Europe alarmed over shift to the right in Germany

After regional elections in which the national-conservative AfD party won seats in three state parliaments the press is discussing the consequences for Europe. Some commentators fear that if Germany moves any further to the right the continent's cohesion could come to an end. Others criticise Merkel for claiming there are no alternatives to her refugee policy.

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Contributors (RO) /

Germany could turn its back on EU

If Germany shifts even further to the right this could spell the end for the European project, writes political scientist Valentin Naumescu on blog portal Contributors:

“Because of its large number of inhabitants, its economic clout, its strategic location in Europe, its historical significance and its huge contribution to the budgets of the Brussels institutions, Germany practically keeps the EU going. That makes sense because most Germans believe that they benefit from the expansion of the European market and that unrestricted German exports to other EU countries have continually boosted their own wealth. … But what happens if this conviction is undermined and the fears of a united Europe grow stronger (the AfD is already successful with this strategy and is growing) because the cost of belonging to the EU is perceived as too high? The answer is simply: then the EU will be doomed.”

Daily Mail (GB) /

Far right's resurgence as Merkel's legacy

With her open-doors policy the German Chancellor has given racism and xenophobia a chance to thrive once more in Germany, the conservative tabloid the Daily Mail comments:

“For more than 70 years, Germany has been a model of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation, banishing memories of the Third Reich to become a beacon of peace and prosperity, and a model to the rest of Europe. Yet now, thanks to the most toxic issue of our age - migration - the demons of nativism, xenophobia and racial hatred have been let loose at the heart of Europe's richest and most powerful nation. This was very far from what Angela Merkel intended when she threw open the gates a year ago. But what an irony that when historians come to write her obituary, it may well prove her most baleful and lasting legacy.”

Novi list (HR) /

AfD's success spells the end for Europe

In recent years Germany has been immune to the rise of the far right but that is all over now, the centre-left daily Novi list laments:

“The triumph of the AfD, a German version of the Front National, heralds a tectonic shift in German politics. And in view of the parliamentary elections next year, such a development is extremely portentous. It will have far-reaching repercussions not only for Germany but for all of Europe. Until now everyone was allowed to stray from the European path - everyone, that is, except Germany. For that reason this moment marks far more than just the end of Merkel's career. This is far more dramatic than a personal political fate. Rather it marks the beginning of the end for a Europe based on solidarity and core values: a Europe which unfortunately never really flourished. Now the age of a new - and at the same time old - Europe has dawned. A Europe of hatred, borders, and camps.”

Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

EU should not have left Berlin in the lurch

The shift to the right in the state parliament elections has repercussions not just for Merkel but for the entire EU, journalist Ileana Giurchescu observes on the blog of the radio broadcaster Europa Liberă:

“In opinion polls a majority of the AfD voters say they voted for the party because it 'says what we think' or 'because it takes us and our concerns seriously'. The main concern is that Germany can't manage the refugee crisis on its own. Naturally one can say that that's the price Chancellor Merkel must now pay for her open-border policy. … But this is also the price Europe must pay for its lacking coherence and solidarity in the refugee crisis. The German voter at least no longer believes in a European solution or in the parties that are preaching this course. Now we can ask what the EU will look like with a Germany in which the established parties are on the defensive.”

Dennik N (SK) /

Chancellor unfairly punished

It's not fair that Angela Merkel has been punished for her refugee policy in the three regional elections, the liberal daily Dennik N concludes:

“Europe's failure to find a solution to the refugee crisis is by no means all Angela Merkel's fault. The refugees arrived in mass numbers, without Germany having invited them, and they will continue to come. … Fences never were and still aren't the solution. The controls must be more thorough. Rejection of economic refugees won't work unless those who are genuinely fleeing to save their lives are given legal permission to stay. … The problem is not that Germany is behaving decently towards the refugees but that it has been left virtually alone with the problem. And it's not true that the refugees can't be distributed. There is a proposal that foresees refugees being allowed to come to the EU but only receiving support in those states where they have been recognised as refugees.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

There is an alternative to Merkel's policy

The chancellor needs to offer her worried people solutions to the refugee crisis but she lacks the power to do so, the liberal business daily Hospodářské noviny comments:

“The anxious majority of the German public can only be appeased with concrete and practical solutions. … The cross Merkel must bear is that her name is now tied up with the migration crisis, but the solution to this crisis no longer lies in her hands. It depends on reaching an agreement with the other European states and now also with Turkey. … Merkel has long claimed there is no alternative to her policy, that it is 'without alternatives'. Since Sunday, however, she can no longer close her eyes to the fact that there is an alternative.”

The Times (GB) /

Voters distrust naive chancellor

The results of Germany's state elections send a warning signal to Merkel regarding the parliamentary elections in 2017, the conservative daily The Times believes:

“That message is that her open-borders decision was wrong, her efforts to keep them open have been misconceived and the deal she has championed with Turkey to prevent a second wave of refugees this year is too weak to trust. … Her disagreement with her EU counterparts and many German voters is fundamental. They see that Germany’s open-border policy is the magnet inducing tens of thousands of refugees to risk their lives heading for Europe. She refuses to acknowledge her naivety and has put her faith in a costly deal to process and accommodate most refugees in Turkey. If that deal does not hold, Mrs Merkel will pay in next year’s election as her party paid last night.”

Protagon.gr (GR) /

Merkel has not "done it"

Chancellor Merkel has failed with her open-door policy, the liberal news website Protagon believes:

“In Baden-Württemberg the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany attained 15 percent of the vote. And in Saxony-Anhalt they performed even better (23 percent). The East Germans don't want any foreigners, and are behaving far worse toward the huge numbers of immigrants than some West Germans treated them after 1990. After the elections in three federal states, two political consequences may be drawn: ... Firstly: Angela Merkel's policy was correct at the start, but the large numbers of refugees has changed it into something that will prove fatal for Germany and the other European countries. Secondly: the two established parties in German politics as we have known them are a thing of the past.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Regional elections show popular support for Merkel

Despite the success of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party German Chancellor Angela Merkel has emerged as the overall winnerwrites the centre-left daily Berliner Zeitung:

“Governing the country won't be any easier. With a strong fourth, fifth or even sixth party in the state parliaments obtaining majorities will be no easy task. But looking at other European countries this, too, is a normal state of affairs. Aside from the shock of the AfD's breakthrough the elections have produced a surprising amount of continuity. The Green politician Winfried Kretschmann remains state premier [in Baden-Württemberg]. The Social Democratic party continues to rule in Rhineland-Palatinate, as does the Christian Democratic Union's man Reiner Haselhoff in Saxony-Anhalt. And the chancellor? All the election winners supported her refugee policy. She - and not her party - has won these elections, for which the party only has itself the blame.”

El País (ES) /

Berlin needs help from other EU members

The growing strength of the right wing populists in Europe means that the EU member states are more duty bound than ever to help Berlin find a solution to the refugee crisis, the centre-left daily El País believes:

“A complex scenario is emerging in Germany. In the new political set-up Chancellor Merkel and her Social Democratic partners in the coalition government must confront the worst humanitarian crisis Europe has faced since World War II. Their ability to do this without breaking the basic principles on immigration will depend on Brussels and the EU member states making a concerted and genuine effort to establish an effective policy for dealing with the crisis.”

More opinions

La Tribune de Genève (CH) / 15 March 2016
  Germany's conservatives shouldn't take their cue from AfD (in French)
El Huffington Post (ES) / 15 March 2016
  Germany no longer able to counter far right (in Spanish)
Der Standard (AT) / 14 March 2016
  Established parties must stand up to AfD on policies (in German)