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Germany

With Merkel Isolated, Europe Must Share Burden And Blame

The German Chancellor has made many mistakes: She has isolated Germany, inside Europe. But it is hardly her fault alone in a continent unable to see the stakes at hand.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on March 16
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on March 16
Sascha Lehnartz

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has earned a reputation for approaching politics with the mind of the physics student she originally was. She has a way of considering problems in reverse, and generally makes sure everyone in the classroom has put on protective glasses before activating the Bunsen burner. Always minimize the risk of injury.

What's interesting about this analogy is that it has endured, even if she has shown over time to occasionally have some truly ill-considered ideas. But it has only been within the context of the migrant crisis that doubts about the Chancellor's otherwise infallible logic have finally emerged.

In this case, Merkel has now begun to face the problem from the beginning, localizing the potential solution by seeing where the refugees are coming from — meaning: Syria, but also through Turkey.

She missed just one minor detail: 27 other Europeans, plus at least one Bavarian, don't have her patience to wait for the outcome of this bold experiment.

Power of persistence

She has also overestimated the readiness of Germany's neighbors to bow to the categorical imperative of acceptance that has been articulated in Berlin.

The result of this misjudgment is that Merkel finds herself alarmingly isolated in Europe, whose political destiny now also depends on the whims of a part-time autocrat in Ankara.

Nevertheless, the Chancellor is right when she points out in her latest government announcement that it would be shameful for Europe, if 28 member states with 500 million inhabitants are not capable of finding a common solution to a crisis that concerns all of them.

Perhaps the German leader's persistence is not ultimately constructive. But as for the will missing from other so-called "major" European powers to share the burden — that cannot be blamed on Angela Merkel's physics after all.

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Illustration by Matt Haney, GPJ

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