Germany has managed to thwart populism by welcoming 1,2 millions refugees.
As Europeans, it should be natural to look at our neighbors’ achievements.
Take the asylum policy. The migration issue is a headache for every government in Europe. But not anymore for Germany. The Head of the German Employer Confederation (BDA), Ingo Kramer, hit the headlines at the end of last year by admitting that the 1,2 million migrants and refugees that were granted hospitality in 2015 and 2016 were integrating the German employment market faster than he had expected.
400 000 already had a job, or a professional training, he underlined. “We must not be afraid of immigration. The people who come to us and work here are an enrichment”, he concluded. Keeping in mind the widespread skepticism that greeted Angela Merkel’s open door policy and her famous “Wir schaffen das”, this achievement is remarkable.
“We are very proud of being able, as a nation, to welcome all those people” a minister from the German government also said.
But there is more good news: the more the integration succeeds, the less the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) propaganda seems to be effective. As stated by Malte Lehming in the Tagesspiegel, the AfD is loosing steam in opinion polls (-11%) simply because the resentment that propelled its popularity over the last couple of years is exhausting. According to the journalist, the electoral success the party is banking on in the next regional elections in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia should fall under the exception rather than the rule.
And there are more good news for Germany : jobs figures are expected to break new records this year, with the unemployment rate falling to 4,9 %, wages climbing by 4,8 % and thousands of vacancies yet to be filled.
In other words, by granting asylum to more refugees than any other European country, Germany not only did some good to its economy, but it also found a recipe to thwart populism, xenophobia and islamophobia.
France has taken a different approach, to say the least. When Germany opened its doors, France closed its own as much as possible. In 2015, at the climax of the refugee crisis, 22 909 people have been admitted for humanitarian reasons in France.
They were 29 862 in 2016. When Germans were rolling up their sleeves to grant decent lodging conditions to the newcomers, France police destroyed shelters in Calais and let thousands of migrants sleep in Paris’s streets. When German unemployment kept falling year after year, it was stagnating in France. It is still nearing 9%, twice the German rate.
One last thing. National Rally, the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, is in great shape. With 22% of voting intentions for European elections, it is leading the race for the coming European elections, slightly ahead of President Macron’s party.
There’s so much France could learn from Germany.