Paris Attacks May Unsettle EU’s Debate on Migration

Chancellor Angel Merkel has been under intensifying fire for opening Germany’s doors to refugees

A girl carries her doll as she and other migrants and refugees walk after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border near Gevgelija on Saturday. The attacks in Paris quickly galvanized opponents of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy.
A girl carries her doll as she and other migrants and refugees walk after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border near Gevgelija on Saturday. The attacks in Paris quickly galvanized opponents of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BERLIN—The attacks in Paris stunned Europe and deepened one of the European Union’s greatest crises: the tide of migration from the war-torn Middle East and elsewhere sweeping in from across the Mediterranean.

In Germany, the attacks quickly galvanized opponents of Chancellor Angela Merkel’sopen-door policy, with critics saying that it had become clearer than ever that the migrants from the Middle East represented a grave security threat. In Poland, a country that had already opposed Ms. Merkel’s stance, leading politicians doubled down and warned they wouldn’t honor an earlier agreement to take in refugees.

France deployed soldiers to secure strategic areas in Paris while European leaders met to address security measures in their own countries. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday has the details on Europe’s response to the Paris attacks.

Ms. Merkel has been under intensifying fire for months for opening Germany’s doors to refugees, a posture that many critics say has helped touch off a tide of migration into Germany numbering as many as 10,000 a day.

As of Saturday afternoon, it remained unclear whether the attacks were perpetrated by homegrown terrorists or people who entered France from abroad. Nevertheless, they quickly offered fodder for critics who said that Germany and Europe couldn’t manage the influx of migration from the Middle East.

In a sign of how much the Paris attacks may unsettle the EU-wide debate on migration, politicians in Poland quickly tied the attacks to Ms. Merkel’s policies. The incoming minister in charge of European affairs, Konrad Szymanski, said the country’s new, conservative government, to be sworn in on Monday, wouldn’t honor its predecessors’ commitment earlier this fall to take in about 7,000 people as part of an EU-wide plan to redistribute migrants across the bloc.

“Decisions of the European Council that we’ve criticized regarding the resettlement of refugees and immigrants to all EU countries are still binding law of the EU,” Mr. Szymanski wrote in an article posted online. “But faced with the tragic events in Paris we don’t see political possibilities for its enforcement.”

It cannot be that we are not protecting our borders and that immigrants from Syria are arriving without being registered. Ms. Merkel’s policy of opening the border for everyone from this region simply cannot stand anymore.

—Alexander Gauland, a deputy chairman of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party

In Germany, Ms. Merkel started to face tougher resistance as well. Markus Söder, a top politician in the chancellor’s conservative sister party in the state of Bavaria, posted on Twitter Saturday: “#parisattacks change everything. We cannot allow any illegal and uncontrolled immigration.” The governors of the border states of Bavaria and Saxony, already critics of Ms. Merkel’s policy, both called for tighter border controls.

“We need to know who is here and who passes through our country,” Mr. Tillich, a member of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said Saturday.

French President François Hollande speaks at the Bataclan, a concert hall in Paris where dozens were killed on Friday.Photo: Getty Images.

German police who have been deployed along the border in recent months already take fingerprints scans of migrants and cross-check them against international criminal databases. But critics say the process still leaves too many loopholes, and the sheer scale of migration increases the risks that terrorists will enter.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party, which has been rising in the polls amid dismay with Ms. Merkel, found a chance to say I told you so.

“It cannot be that we are not protecting our borders and that immigrants from Syria are arriving without being registered,” Alexander Gauland, a deputy chairman of the Alternative for Germany, said in an interview. “Ms. Merkel’s policy of opening the border for everyone from this region simply cannot stand anymore.”

Supporters of Ms. Merkel’s open door quickly mobilized to defend it. The terror in Paris, they said, underscored the desperation of people fleeing violence in Syria elsewhere.

“Many people are now searching for protection and security in Europe,” said Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Ms. Merkel’s junior partner in government, the Social Democrats. “We cannot now let them suffer because they come from the regions from which terror comes to us.”

Prominent buildings around the world were lit up in the colors of the French flag in solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks that left more than 100 dead, and were condemned by leaders from countries around the world. Photo: Getty Images

Jürgen Hardt, the main voice on foreign policy in Ms. Merkel’s conservative parliamentary group, said the attacks would complicate the government’s efforts to retain support for taking in refugees—even if the Paris attacks highlight the plight of people in the Middle East.

“People’s empathy for the fate of the refugees will increase,” Mr. Hardt said in an interview. “But so will the fear that a few terrorists will slip in unnoticed among the hundreds of thousands who are coming.”

The chancellor herself didn’t directly address the migration issue in her comments on the Paris attacks Saturday morning. But she promised that Germany would respond to the attack in accordance with its values—including “respect for the other and tolerance.”

“Let us respond to the terrorists by living our values in confidence and strengthen these values for all of Europe—now more than ever,” Ms. Merkel said.

In Italy, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano acknowledged concerns that terrorists could hide among the 140,000 seaborne migrants who have landed in the country this year from Libya. While he said he couldn’t completely rule out infiltration of terrorists among the migrants, he said Rome had no evidence of such a problem until now.

Italy has been beefing up procedures to identify and register migrants and the process has show “extraordinary improvements,” he said.

SOURCE:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/paris-attacks-may-unsettle-eus-debate-on-migration-1447510975

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