What’s left from Schengen? My interview with l’Observateur

What’s left from Schengen? Germany, the guardian of the temple

A summary of an article of the French weekly l’Observateur in which I good give some answers to Germany’s Schengen policy:

New controls in the member states, higher fences, and divided populations… the refugee crisis will put an end to a fenceless world. A trip to a disintegrated Europe. Fifth stage: Germany

Why is Angela Merkel the only one who pleads for receiving refugees? Is she trying not to repeat a new iron curtain?, asks the German Ambassador in Paris Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut. Is Ms. Merkel Europe´s mommy?

„It´s my duty to find a collective European solution“, says Merkel surprising her listeners. „There is no romance in it, but pragmatism. She wants an efficient Europe, which this one is not“, says Bernd Hüttemann, Secretary General of the European Movement Germany.

Merkel is the only leader with a long-term view, who pleads for redistributing migrants, for finding a compromise with Turkey and protecting Schengen, states Robert Goebbels, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg.

The member states criticise Merkel´s position, since she sent too many welcoming signals to migrants, even though Europe cannot take all refugees anymore, says the French prime minister Manuel Valls. Europeans disapprove her unilateral decisions. Germany, with its strong economy and its demographic deficit, is the only country which really benefits from cheap external labor. France the other way round, does not, says the former ambassador and researcher at Carnegie Europe Marc Pierini.

Angela Merkel is more and more isolated: within Europe, Germany and her party CDU. „We should put an end to wishes and illusions. I can understand the Austrian and the Visegrad-States´s position. Closing borders may also be an option for Germany itself. But does it mean that Schengen is dying? What kind of European project can we have if every country closes its borders?“, asks CDU-MP Philipp Lengsfeld.

Under pressure Merkel was forced to reintroduce controls at the borders and to stop the arrival of economic migrants. Following the Austrian and Swedish example, German public opinion started to back right-wing parties. Almost 42% declare themselves favorable to border controls.

Meanwhile Bernd Hüttemann hopes that Germans won´t lose faith in the European ideas, and also the German Association of Federal Armed Forces underline the importance of a borderless Europe for the stability and peace of our continent.

„Schengen is essential for Germany, and closing borders is no option for the 21st century“, said Merkel. However, there is something paradoxical here, since „she may continue to criticize the closing of the Balkan borders, but she would have needed to do the same if more refugees had come“, says the Spiegel-journalist Ralf Neukirch. „Closing the, Macedonian-Greek border will save Schengen. No one can openly say that, but that is a fact“, stated Bernd Hüttemann. In fact, the number of migrants to Germany dropped as a consequence of the close-down of the Balkan route. Greece may suffocate, but Germany can breathe again.

Read the full article in French language.

 

Rough talk is aimed at the national media

Rough talk before the European Council with Turkey is aimed at the national media, EM Germany’ secretary general explains in Chinese Television CCTV news. Watch the news piece on refugee politics conflict lines in Germany and Europe.

In a report ahead of the European Council with Turkey, Chinese TV station CCTV takes a closer look at Germany’s isolated position in the refugee crisis. CCTV’s Berlin correspondent Guy Henderson is also showing the conflict lines within Germany. “There must be some tough talk and provocations before the Council in Germany because we have state elections coming up here”, EM Germany’s general secretary Bernd Huettemann is quoted. “They are doing it for the national media.” Huettemann expects the row to calm down a bit after the election Sunday.

Watch the news piece here

Serbia gained Reputation – my interview at Tanjug

In an interview with the Serbian news agency Tanjug, I underlined the long reform process an EU accession would require. However, Serbia has gained very positive reputation due to the refugee crisis, particularly in Germany. In times of the massive movement of refugees towards Europe, Serbia’s constructive role affects the perception of the pre-accession country very positively.

Referring to the Serbian question to what extend the Russian interests need to be taken into account, I asked not to mix up the topics. Serbia is clearly on a European path. The EU’s agenda must not consider other country’s interests substantially.

Interview at Tanjug (in English) 

Online article at Channel B92 (in Serbian)

12 Days Lebanon for a European Dummy

So here I go! 12 days ahead for me in the Lebanon. I try to get an inside view into Relief & Reconciliation for Syria, a small but fine NGO which provides humanitarian aid to those who are affected by the Syrian crisis in tiny country. It is my first trip to the Middle East. Apart from Anatolia and Cyprus I never felt Asian ground.

Is it a good idea to start with the Lebanon? Since my childhood I remember this small country in bloody conflicts on a black and white TV screen. Just before Europe raised its iron curtain a ceasefire ended a 16 years old civil war. Coincidence? The Lebanese Civil War was certainly also a proxy war. The cold worriers stopped feeding…

Now walking through Beirut gives a mixed picture. Houses destroyed by the Civil War, Disney-like rich architecture and still enclaves of all kinds of communities protected by checkpoints with heavy weapons. The main common glue seems to be an uncontrolled private capitalism without communal administration.

It looks all oddly familiar to me. Over decades I got more media information about Lebanon than about Ukraine. For sure this was due to the brutality of the conflicts, both in numbers as in pictures. 150.000 people got killed in 16 years. 1 Mio people were displaced. Although violence came back in 2000 Lebanon remained remarkably stable in its fragility. Who are dominating the state? Muslims or Christians? The situation is far more complicated: Muslims belong half to Shia half to Sunni Islam. The Christian community is also fragmented into many confessions. However within the Christian group Maronites – united with the Catholic Church – are the clear dominating majority. Furthermore, the small and closed religious community of Druze play a pivotal political role. Since the Taif Agreement, the Lebanese political system might be parliamentarian,  but it is highly based on confessionalism, giving each of the major religious groups a political role. It is the only democracy in the world based on religious groups. Unofficially but constantly, the President has to be a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shia Muslim, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim etc. In comparison with other countries in the region, Lebanon is – within confessional limits – a politically free country. The diverse groups ensure a certain pluralism of media.  Another division line can be drawn since the Cedar revolution, which led to the end of the Syrian occupation of the country. The March 14 Alliance is considered to be pro-Western, the March 8 Alliance pro-Iranian. But parties were changing sides over the years. The patriarchical leadership of most of the parties and affiliation to family clans might lead to the conclusion that Lebanese leadership goes not so much along religious but rather clanic lines.

However, let it be religious, geo-/political, or clan-driven: existing checks-and balances remain fragile, but remain. And even though the Civil War broke the predominance of Christian forces in the only “Christian state” of the Middle East, the War and the Cedar Revolution in the aftermath made also the Muslim communities more Lebanese. Before, pan-Arabic movements wore predominant. The non-state Lebanon became a little bit more state by outside thread, even though the state infrastructure has not yet recovered from the conflicts of the past. Contradictions everywhere! But perhaps they are more coherent than one might think at first sight.

In the meantime, the former occupier Syria became herself a slaughter house. The outbreak of the civil war in Syria forced over 1.5 Mio refugees to flee into Lebanon, which counts alone just 4.4 Mio Lebanese and some 800,000 Palestinian and other refugees. Lebanon has become the world’s country with the highest number of refugees per capita. Isn’t a negative spill-over of the Syrian humanitarian disaster to the fragile Lebanon inevitable?

For a long time, Syria and its unique religious and linguistic mosaic had been dominated by the Assad regime. The regime as well as other criminal extremists, have pushed the peaceful revolution against its iron grip into a sectarian war. Deliberately, as some presume. A double-faced terror let Christians and especially Sunnis flew to Lebanon.

Tomorrow, I will travel to the North of Lebanon together with Friedrich Bokern, to the Peace Centre of R&R. I am sure some answers to the current situation will lead to many more questions. Read my report on Syrian refugees and their impact on Lebanon’s confessional ballance and my report on traveling in Lebanon in German.

 

#PublicDiplomacyEU instead of diplomatic statism!

Use a wide range of social forces to achieve European integration! Germany needs “the will to play a key strategic role”. And “Germany’s leadership role” is supposed to “revitalise Europe”. This review process has great expectations of German foreign policy in Europe. And it is certainly true that crises all over the world are an indication of the sort of challenges facing German foreign policy. However, German diplomacy can only be successful if it works with stakeholders from society and business, as Germany has swarm intelligence and is a pluralistic society. My contribution at review 2014 published by the German Foreign Office.

Further information on European Public Diplomacy at netzwerk-ebd.de (in German)

Mind the gap. Germany and Britain divided on European democracy

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the party which got 7% of the votes and 7 seats at the European Parliament elections in Germany, joined the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. How could this happen? Didn’t the UK’s Premier promise Germany’s Chancellor not to strengthen her conservative competitor? A majority of ECR MEPs voted against the advice of the British Conservative party leader David Cameron and it transpires that even members of his own party didn’t follow his instruction.

What does it mean for Germany? In the first instance not a lot, it seems. German media reported softly about the new joint eurosceptic forces. The main news on German TV (Tagesschau/heute) didn’t mention it at all. No comparison to the big headlines and outrage generated by Cameron’s resistance and Merkel’s brief hesitation towards Jean-Claude Juncker’s candidacy for Commission President. That was big news for them.

German media, parties and representative associations were united behind the “Spitzenkandidat”. 60% of Germans back the idea that it is the European Parliament that should decide on the new European Commission President. Just 26% of the Germans find it right that the heads of state and governments should be the ones choosing the new President (Infratest-DIMAP/ARD).

The UK’s political and media strategy totally underestimated the pluralistic German society and the democratic moment. Some years ago I had a long chat with a British Channel4 journalist. He was sent to the deep province of Germany to find Eurosceptics and anti-Greek sentiment. After many attempts interviewing members of a “Männerchor”, traditionally a very conservative German microcosm in the countryside, he gave up and came to acknowledge German pluralism as one source of pro-European feelings. I told him something about “Schwarmintelligenz” of birds or fishes. German society is not monolithic, so it is harder to be ruled by a media spin (than in the UK maybe).

The collective intelligence of Germans keeps them together without guidance, because they are independent.

Some month ago I met British government representatives in London to explain that German small and medium sized entrepreneurs, saving bank associations, trade unions but even the governing party CDU don’t have direct partners in the UK anymore. The UK became too Westminster centred and lost sight of German political diversity. The loss of understanding is evident. Germans are angry about the snooping by the NSA and its UK partner Government Communications Headquarters. But it appears that GCHQ gathered the wrong kind of intelligence and failed to assess correctly the mood in Germany. Nobody told Downing Street?

Since the financial crisis, Germans are more wary of London than annoyed by Brussels bureaucracy. The European elections confirmed Germany’s deep commitment to the development of European democracy and solidarity. There is a feeling that the UK doesn’t share the same commitment.

Returning to the AfD, this new euro-sceptic party got 2 million votes in the European election, which was exactly the same result as in the federal elections in 2013. Due to an overall drop in turnout, AfD got a relatively higher percentage in the EP election. Therefore CDU doesn’t have to be too concerned about its wannabe rival. It’s size, appeal and influence remains small.

In the same time Germans are used to grand coalitions, not only on state or federal level. The co-operation between CDU/CSU and SPD became remarkably smooth especially on European politics. People understand that grand coalitions between mainstream parties are those that offer leadership and real solutions in a time of crisis. From this perspective, the new Eurosceptic coalition between the AfD and the Tories appears to be a negligible issue for them.

Of course most of the Germans love British culture and rhetoric (sic!). But is this enough when they start to dislike Westminster’s attitude, financial market’s policy, spying and an increasingly hostile stance towards free movement of persons as well as the Germans’ understanding of the concept of democracy.
So Merkel will keep calm and carry on. Irrespective of whether the Tories decided to partner with her fringe rivals, the AfD. The lines of Social and Christian European Democrats will keep coming closer together. There will be a big majority for Juncker in the European Parliament and in the European Council. Nordic countries and central and Eastern European countries count more on Germany than on the UK these days. Germany is now far enough from World War II and Eastern Europe is more than annoyed by British hostility against immigrants.

But what about Britain’s future in the EU. It will be offered some modest (but, in many cases, non-consequential concessions) in order to keep it in the European Union. Britain is admired because it is pragmatic. So it is up to Britain to utilise the obvious benefits of the EU. And don’t mention the war anymore, dear tabloid press… The Germans would laugh out loud.

The European Movement Germany is 65 years today. It was founded on 13 June 1949 by, among others, Duncan Sandys, Winston Churchill’s son-in-law.

Published at theEuroBlog byEuropean Movement UK 13/06/2014

Passau Essays on Lobbyism & Europeanisation

Lobbyism & Europeanisation. Those two terms are normally not used in the same time. My proseminar Interest representation in the European Union at the Passau University Universität Passau is dedicated to both fields of interest. After three semesters it is time to present interesting and worth reading essays – with the authorised by the authors of the students and the Jean Monnet Chair on European Politics. The serial in German language will be initiated by an essay on a difficult and theory oriented topic:  Europeanisation by “Goodness of fit” vulgo “Misfit” by Agnes Kultzen. How much do theories fit to reality? Kultzen is sceptical. Other articles follow in no particular order, eg on the Dalli lobby affaire.

Brussels Business on air

This week Brussels Business will be aired. I was lucky enough to see a preview in Berlin a few months ago. I am glad that finally everybody can follow this masterpiece of dramatic documentary or “docu-thriller” (IMDB). But stay critical: the drama might be misleading.

  • It will be shown 12 February 2013 08:16 p.m, on Arte, with a repeat 24 February 2013 01:35 a.m.
  • From 5 February 2013 it will be online for 30 days at Arte: The Brussels Business

You can read my critical view of it here

Wikipedia article

Internet Movie Data Base

Official Facebook page

Official Webpage

Euro Crisis Demands for a European Public Broadcasting Co-operation

More and more often there is a demand for a European public space. And this is clearly related to the current crisis. European politics is dominating national media as it has never happened before. National media and politicians not just get a crash course in European politics but need to deal also with EU member states they always neglected before. European journalism is needed which adds to national parish-pump politics. In an article of the German press agency dpa I recently demanded for a real European public broadcasting co-operation. There is no reason that something which functions exemplary and well in Germany should not work in Europe. The example should not be the centralist 2nd programme ZDF but the federal organised 1st programme ARD.

Full article in German: Euro-Krise bietet Chance für europäische Medienöffentlichkeit, von Miriam Schmidt, dpa

How I became a JEFfer

Growing-up in a nice province in West Germany in the 80ies I always got a feeling there must be something outside, which is international, open, transparent, not spoiled by cold war, 1968 ideology and party fights on nothing. The only international organisations I saw being present in my home city were the British Rhine Army, the Catholic Church and a Europe Day committee. So why not starting with a JEF section? But beyond the local level JEF gave me the impression of not being European paralysed by left/right-wing fights. Those days JEF-D was mainly consisting of male “youth” over 30…  As German JEFfers still were fighting the wall came down. Liberty! But no joy in JEF. In December 1989 delegates of the JEF-D Congress were shocked by a possible German reunification. I wanted to escape.

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