How Cologne affects German, EU policy toward refugee crisis

Would you say that Cologne attacks and the debate related to them may have/should have some profound effect and which effect on Germany, EU’s approach toward refugee crisis? Read few comments.

Christian KaunertProfessor of International Politics, Director of the European Institute for Security and Justice, University of Dundee

I think the incident will have a significant impact on the refugee debate in Germany and the EU as a whole. Already, it feeds into stereotypes of Muslim immigrants, which will make it politically more difficult for the German government. However, I think politicians should be careful with rash judgements. The evidence so far seems to point to an organised harassment of many perpetrators. This seems to indicate a political motive of the perpetrators, overriding the criminal motive. If, indeed, there is a political motive, politicians need to ask themselves whether this is an organised way to discredit and delegitimatise Syrian refugees by the perpetrators. So far, we do not know for sure what the background of those perpetrators is, only what they claim it is. Before we let this influence policies, there needs to be a thorough examination of all facts, and, particularly the organised nature of those incidents would raise the suspicion of a political motive.

Andrew Geddes, Professor, Department of Politics, Co-Director, Social Sciences Migration Research Group, University of Sheffield

I think that we are seeing a change in the public mood. In the summer, we got used to the phrase ‘refugees welcome’. In the winter we are becoming more used to seeing ‘refugees not welcome’ as a slogan at public meetings.I think that the attacks in Cologne could be called a focusing event. By this I mean that they focus attention not only on the sexual assaults but also on wider issues associated with immigration, refugees and the effects of these phenomena. The attacks themselves are criminal acts and, hopefully, the perpetrators will be caught and punished for their actions. It would be wrong to claim that the attackers represent all migrants and refugees because clearly they don’t. But what this issue does is focus attention on the migration and refugee issue. This is a long-standing concern in Germany and the issues have been around since at least the 1960s. I think that what we now see is a much more intense focus on migration and refugees because of the sheer numbers of people moving to Germany. I think that a less welcoming approach is already becoming evident in Germany with the imposition of border controls. This is also likely to have an effect on the EU approach, which is already quite focused on border controls and security. If anything we are likely to see an even stronger focus on border controls and security. The attacks in Cologne are not the only driver. Obviously the Paris attacks in November also led to a drive to impose greater controls on circulation within the Schengen area. The key underlying thing, as I mentioned earlier, is this change in the public. I think the governments across the EU are quite sensitive to this and are keen not to be seen as out of step with the public mood.

Artur GruszczakCentre for European Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow

The incidents in Cologne, Hamburg, Duesseldorf and other cities have exerted a tremendous impact on the public opinion in Germany as well as in many other EU countries. It can be seen in the psychological context, as a factor producing anxiety in society and enhancing dislike for the migrants, or even hostility against the asylum seekers. It corresponds with the rising anti-immigrant feeling across Europe. It also can be regarded as another serious fault committed by the authorities seeking to avoid a confrontation with immigrants and rescue the humanitarian approach to the incoming foreigners based on tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Basically, the attacks in Cologne and other cities would force German regional and federal authorities, as well as law enforcement services, to tighten the policy towards immigrants, securitize the refugee problem and enhance preventive as well as repressive security measures. It will probably lead to the resurgence of the Leitkultur principle (emphasizing German legal and cultural norms) and an accelerated adaptation and assimilation of the refugees and legal immigrants. The latter has become a typical feature of the approach towards migrants prevailing all over Europe. It is based on the growing fear of the ‘aliens’ and the need of deterring them from arriving in the EU. The political climate created by the anti-immigrant parties and movements in the EU will harden the approach to the immigrants and make it difficult to work out a sensible, effective and legitimate solution to the refugee crisis.

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