In these days of July 2017, it can be seen that history repeats itself. Two years have passed, since the summer and fall of 2015, in which thousands of people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq came to Europe to seek asylum. Today, 10.000-15.000 African refugees arrive at the coasts of South Italy every month, coming from Libya by small boats. The Italian government feels abandoned by its European partners, now the topic has come up in the election campaign in Germany.
The refugee crisis was more or less displaced from public awareness. The two major German parties did not want to deal with this topic, that still divides German society. But now, the candidate for Chancellorship by the Social Democrat Party (SPD) Martin Schulz warned, that “a situation like 2015 should not repeat itself”. He will meet Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday, to assure him the “support for Italy and an equal distribution of refugees in the European Union”. He also attacks chancellor Angela Merkel, by blaming her of ignoring the current conditions up to the election in September: “It is cynical to ignore the situation”. In fact, he is right about that. A humanitarian catastrophe needs to be prevented, and doing nothing or hiding from the fact, that according to UNHCR 5.000 refugees arrived on a single day two weeks ago, will change nothing. Schulz wants to arrange immediate financial measures for other European countries who take refugees from Italy, but it is unlikely that he will be successful. Too many countries refuse to host more immigrants. But is the refugee crisis a rewarding topic in the election? The SPD as a coalition partner of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), carried along the immigration policies of the last two years, so it does not seem reliable that he dissociates from the last years’ politics.
In the focus of Martin Schulz’s attacks is the Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Having lost a lot of support from her party and voters during the refugee crisis in 2015, the leader of the CDU does not want to pick up the discussion about migration before the elections in fall. Their union partner, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) still insists on a cap of the number of refugees. The opinions between the union partners are quite opposite, CSU leader Horst Seehofer has criticized Angela Merkel many times for her “welcoming policy”. There have been several heated discussions, and disputes between the politicians of the union parties. According to Seehofer, a number of 200.000 refugees per year should not be exceeded, otherwise, “a successful integration of the migrants would not be possible”. With the decreasing number of arriving refugees in the last months, this limit would not have been reached, but now the conflict could come up again. With this stricter migration policy, Seehofer wants to reach voters for the union, that originally wanted to vote for the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a rightwing populist party. The AfD benefited from Angela Merkel’s decision to receive the high number of migrants in 2015, because of an anti-immigration program.
The last thing Angela Merkel and the CDU need two months before the election, is another dispute with their partner CSU. In order for a successful result in the election, they need to shut down their inner textual problems and appear as a union. Contender Martin Schulz needs to make reliable plans for immigration, but also attack Merkel and the CDU, to provoke internal conflicts. But what both parties and candidates should have in common, is the interest of preventing a refugee crisis like 2015. They both need to stand up for their European partners, in this case Italy, to help them solving this situation together as the European Union.