• Wandering Refugees

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey February 12, 2016

    Carnegie Europe is on the ground at the 2016 Munich Security Conference, offering readers exclusive access to the debates as the unfold and providing insights on today’s most urgent international issues. Follow our live coverage here.


    Peter Altmaier cuts an impressive figure. As Angela Merkel’s chief of staff—as if that’s not enough on his plate—Altmaier is responsible for coordinating his boss’s greatest challenge since she became German chancellor in 2005: the refugee crisis.

    Dempsey is a nonresident senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of <em>Strategic Europe</em>.
    Judy Dempsey
    Nonresident Senior Associate
    Carnegie Europe
    Editor in chief
    Strategic Europe
    More from this author...
    A year ago, it was Merkel and Ukraine that was the center of attention here at the Munich Security Conference.

    Merkel had just ended talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, followed by a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, to try to forge a ceasefire agreement in Eastern Ukraine. She then flew to Munich to explain her position and to project a leadership that has kept Europe united over its policy toward Russia.

    This year, the continuing war in Syria and the huge impact that the refugee crisis is having on the region—but also on Europe and particularly on Germany—is topping the agenda. Again, Germany has taken the lead, this time without its EU allies.

    Altmaier, who said (perhaps feigning modesty) that he is not the most important official in the government but (in jest) that he is certainly the biggest, had no qualms defending Germany’s refugee policy.

    Over the past year, Germany has taken in over 1.1 million refugees fleeing the wars in Syria and Iraq. So many other EU countries have literally closed their borders, with some leaders, notably Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, saying that this crisis is Germany’s problem because Merkel had unilaterally welcomed them in the first place. Across most of Europe, renationalization of what should be European policies is on the march.

    When asked about Germany’s refugee policy and the Chancellery’s recent efforts to improve the living conditions of the millions of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, Altmaier was more than forthright.

    “We have admitted the refugees for reasons of our European humanitarian values,” he told the banqueting hall that was almost half empty, despite the enormity of the crisis that is doing untold damage to European solidarity.

    “And we admitted them because we are wholeheartedly convinced that the stability of the entire region, not just of Europe but the Middle East, largely depends on whether we handle this challenge with care or there will be devastating results,” he added. The refugee crisis is a geostrategic crisis.

    Germany is leaning on Turkey to try and stop smugglers from transporting refugees across the Aegean Sea to Greece. And Turkey, which has already spent $10 billion on providing food, shelter, and medical care to over 2.5 million refugees, is now under increasing pressure to open its borders to the many more thousands fleeing the Russian bombardment of Aleppo.

    Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, defended his country’s policy. “We have not closed the border,” he said. “But we also have security concerns,” he added. He insisted that Turkey is making it easier for refugees to work in the country.

    But the more Çavuşoğlu spoke, the more he gave the impression that Germany—because the rest of the EU is not going to help the refugees—is outsourcing the problem, which would suit Berlin and the rest of the EU. Indeed, NATO is now prepared to send patrol ships that will send back refugees attempting to cross the Aegean Sea to Turkey.

    At the same time, there is a belated drive by the Europeans to increase their contributions to the UNHCR and the UN World Food Program—having miserably failed to respond to repeated requests by both UN agencies to finance housing, education, food, and health for refugees in the camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

    “Yes, we are much too late,” said Bert Koenders, the Dutch foreign minister. “We have seen a complete lack of interest on the protection of civilians and the functioning of the United Nations Security Council to stop the fighting,” he added.

    Somehow, Koenders’s approach to this unending crisis was so technical that it lacked a sense of how it is damaging the EU. His Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, conveniently ducked the question about Russia’s role in Syria. It was left up to William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration, to remind the panelists of their moral and humanitarian obligations.

    That is not going to help Altmaier or his boss.

    Germany is doing what it can to provide safety for those that genuinely need it. Altmaier, as much as Merkel, knows that the refugee crisis will end once the war in Syria ends. On that note, Altmaier sounded far from optimistic about the latest attempts to agree a ceasefire among all the parties in Syria. “I believe it when I see it,” he said.

    Let’s see how Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev will justify his country’s policies in Syria on day two of the MSC and how he will use the occasion to tell his Russian sympathizers here that it’s time to turn over a new leaf.



  • American Absence and Franco-German Divides

    Posted by: Jan Techau Friday, February 12, 2016

    The first day of the 2016 Munich Security Conference was marked by little mention of the United States and by sharp differences between France and Germany.

  • Munich Hosts a Beleaguered West

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Friday, February 12, 2016

    The world order will not be restored until the West regains the confidence to defend its political and economic liberal system.

  • Live From the Munich Security Conference

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey, Jan Techau Thursday, February 11, 2016

    Carnegie Europe is on the ground at the 2016 Munich Security Conference, offering readers exclusive access to the debates as they unfold.

  • Letter From Amman

    Posted by: Ahmad Masa’deh Thursday, February 11, 2016

    EU initiatives in Jordan should focus on projects that lead to real political development and enhance the welfare and life quality of Jordanian citizens.

  • Judy Asks: Is There a Political Solution for Syria?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Yanis Varoufakis, Peddler of Snake Oil

    Posted by: Jan Techau Tuesday, February 09, 2016 7

    A new political manifesto contains a decent idea for the future of Europe, but it is buried in ideological babble, conspiracy theories, and moral grandstanding.

  • Putin Uses the Refugee Crisis to Weaken Merkel

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, February 08, 2016 1

    Angela Merkel has to convince the German public she has the refugee crisis under control. Vladimir Putin is not making that task any easier.

  • Letter From Tunis

    Posted by: Walid Haddouk Friday, February 05, 2016

    Despite over two decades of partnership, it is unclear whether the EU’s approach toward Tunisia has increased the country’s economic and social wealth.

  • Europe and Russia: Five Statements, Five Questions

    Posted by: Robert Cooper Thursday, February 04, 2016

    The positive political relations that provide security depend on cooperation, and cooperation needs common instruments like the EU, NATO, and the OSCE.

  • Judy Asks: Will the Next U.S. President Care About Europe?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, February 03, 2016 1

    A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Libyan Lessons for Europe

    Posted by: Daniel Keohane Tuesday, February 02, 2016

    Libya is a rare security challenge for which Europe should take more responsibility than other external powers such as the United States.

  • Europe’s Declining Influence, Europe’s Growing Illiberalism

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, February 01, 2016 9

    With few exceptions, European leaders are turning their backs on a EU that was built on openness, values, and influence.

  • Letter From Jerusalem

    Posted by: Menachem Klein Friday, January 29, 2016

    Because of the distance between them, the EU and Israel have serious misperceptions of each other. That puts the EU in a strategic, political, and moral dilemma.

  • Russia’s Manipulation of Germany’s Refugee Problems

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, January 28, 2016 2

    The Kremlin and the Russian media are using Europe’s refugee crisis to sow further divisions in the EU and weaken Angela Merkel.

  • Judy Asks: Will Turkey Help Europe on Refugees?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, January 27, 2016

    A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Poland’s New Politics

    Posted by: Jarosław Kuisz Tuesday, January 26, 2016 2

    The leader of Poland’s governing conservative Law and Justice party is making political use of the negative attitudes toward the West among certain groups of Poles.

  • Germany, Dump Nord Stream 2

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, January 25, 2016 11

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel needs more allies, not opponents, in the EU. Abandoning a second Russian-German gas pipeline could help.

  • Letter From Damascus

    Posted by: Salam Kawakibi Friday, January 22, 2016 Français

    If the Europeans do not take the Syrian conflict seriously, other global actors will not take the Europeans seriously either.

  • Merkel, Isolated and With No Plan B

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, January 21, 2016 1

    Without support from other European countries or an alternative plan for dealing with the refugee crisis, the German chancellor’s open-door policy is not sustainable.


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Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe offers insightful analysis, fresh commentary, and concrete policy recommendations from some of Europe’s keenest international affairs observers.

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