How has "We can do it" changed Europe?

In the late summer of 2015 German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to allow refugees stuck at Budapest's Keleti train station to travel on to Germany. This move was followed by a sharp rise in refugee numbers. Merkel underpinned her policy with the phrase "We can do it". Europe's press is still deeply divided about the repercussions.

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Kristeligt Dagblad (DK) /

Merkel has yet to provide answers

Unfortunately Angela Merkel has failed to back up her slogan "We can do it" with any concrete political proposals, Kristeligt Dagblad criticises:

“Merkel's humanitarian 'go-it-alone' strategy has resulted in an unprecedented and chaotic influx of refugees. ... Without it, the right-wing nationalist Alternative für Deutschland would never have won a landslide victory in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the German state with the lowest number of foreigners. The enthusiasm of a year ago was followed by the attacks in Cologne on New Year's Eve and the Islamist attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach. ... It's good when politicians exude an aura of strength and optimism, but both these things are also necessary when it comes to addressing the issue of how to integrate a large number of asylum seekers. Merkel has toughened the asylum legislation but otherwise failed to provide concrete answers as to how Germany and Europe can tackle these challenges.”

Večer (SI) /

Where is the guilty conscience?

Europe's governments see the refugee crisis only as a security risk and not as the worst humanitarian disaster of our times, Večer laments:

“The fear of migration has unquestionably grown in Europe over the last two years because of the terrorist attacks - even though they were perpetrated by extremists born in Europe. There is no comprehension whatsoever of the fact that humanity is facing a historical challenge here. And the root causes of the problems of the modern world remain unsolved. With its military adventures in the Middle East, the West, lead by the US, has only aggravated these problems. The influx of refugees resulting from the destabilisation of this region remains a nightmare - rather than acting as the guilty conscience of the European governments and their allies in the US.”

Sme (SK) /

Slovakian weapons going directly to Syria

It is a mistake for Slovakia to act like the refugee issue has nothing to do with it, Sme warns:

“The distribution of refugees within Europe hasn't worked out so far. Politicians from Central Eastern Europe opposed it and are now saying that its failure proves that their predictions were right. … Admittedly, they have no alternative. Prime Minister Robert Fico has defended himself so far saying that Slovakia bears no responsibility for the unrest in the Middle East. But after a recent UN report we know better. Last year alone, Slovakia exported 38,000 assault rifles, 1,600 anti-tank weapons, 14 rocket launchers as well as other arms to Saudi Arabia. And almost all of them were smuggled into Syria to be used in the combat zones there.”

ABC (ES) /

Breaking the law for a supposedly good cause

With her decision a year ago the chancellor was hoping to do good but she achieved the opposite, ABC comments:

“A year ago Angela Merkel concluded that the dramatic situation in which thousands of refugees in Hungary found themselves was so extraordinary and extreme that it called for her, the most powerful leader on the continent, to suspend the EU laws that applied in the 28 member states unilaterally and without prior consultation. … No one doubts that she was acting on good intentions - her generosity in wanting to offer asylum to all those who needed it or her compassion and will to prevent the tragedies shown on television all over the world. But it is indisputable that on that day Merkel violated the principle of law in Europe. And this triggered a perverse chain reaction that has transformed the demographics of German villages, neighbourhoods and cities and changed the lives of millions of Germans.”

Lietuvos žinios (LT) /

A pioneer of humanistic policy

A year after she coined her much cited slogan Merkel has indeed achieved a lot, the daily paper Lietuvos žinios believes:

“The daughter of a priest is pursuing a humanistic policy and this has elicited praise from the pope and the states of the Middle East, particularly those like Jordan that are burdened by a huge influx of refugees. She has also been praised by Obama and even communist China although neither the Americans nor the Chinese approve of the deal between Germany and Turkey. But precisely this deal has led to the number of refugees arriving in Germany shrinking from 200,000 last November to 16,300 in June.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

France's lax stance on refugees

The refugee crisis isn't over by a long shot but France has turned its back on the issue altogether, Le Figaro rails:

“The migratory tsunami affects the entire European Union. And it's clear that solutions that are far more drastic that the measures for the Schengen Area must be found here. Nevertheless France can't shirk its own responsibilities. It is less tight-fisted than many of its partners when it comes to granting protection to asylum seekers. And welfare aid for illegal immigrants is also more accessible here. Finally, expulsion procedures are more likely to get lost in judicial labyrinths in France than elsewhere. Yes, Angela Merkel's generosity is untenable, but François Hollande's laxity can no longer be tolerated either.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Others had to do the dirty work

A pan-European initiative would have been better than Merkel's disastrous unilateral stance, Le Soir concludes:

“You can't win a war with good intentions: that's the flip side of this historic declaration. This huge moral act has ended in a political and operative fiasco. Today we see that if the flood of refugees has slowed, it's above all because other leaders have done the dirty work. The chancellor, by contrast, reached a dishonourable deal with Turkey to save the situation - and her position. History will show that there was another way to deal with the situation: through the European institutions and a joint reaffirmation of moral principles in conjunction with a pragmatic plan of action.”

Právo (CZ) /

Genie must go back in the bottle

One year after coining her slogan "We can do it", Merkel has acknowledged that she made certain mistakes in dealing with the refugee crisis. The daily Právo is not convinced by her admission:

“The chancellor's self-criticism came as no surprise. Her real goal was to spread the responsibility for the chaotic state of affairs across the entire EU and divert attention from her own mistakes. For example her strategically weak appraisal of what could happen after hundreds of thousands of refugees were invited to Germany and Europe without first putting a coordinated plan in place. After one year, it's too late. No doubt the crisis will result in an enormous, long-term burden on the German welfare state. The Germans no longer believe that they can do it. ... Today we can only try to get this genie in the form of an uncontrolled multitudes of refugees back in the bottle. But that's not to say that it will work.”

More opinions

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) / 05 September 2016
  Merkel's slogan didn't cause mass exodus (in German)