In the immediate wake of the massacres in Paris last Friday, the finance minister for the German state of Bavaria, Markus Söder, feverishly called for an end to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s so-called “open-door” policy on refugees.
Merkel’s government expects to register 800,000 refugees this year, part of the largest mass movement of dispossessed people since the Second World War. Germany has refused to name an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers it will let in.
France and Britain, by contrast, have agreed only to take in a combined 44,000 refugees. It was a fraught task for EU leaders to agree to quotas for sharing 160,000 people seeking refuge in the union.
Germany the largest EU nation with 82 million citizens is indeed taking in the most new denizens. (It’s worth noting that Turkey expects 1.9 million refugees this year, 1.7 million of whom have come from Syria.)
Merkel’s current term as chancellor ends in 2017, and it is unclear whether she will run in the next election. It thus makes sense to judge her actions now in terms of legacy-forging. After decades of realpolitik maneuvering, Merkel has room for a grand gesture on her way out. Showing a kindly face to desperate people is already paying off for her in the international media.