Securing Borders A Taxing Proposal for Refugee Crisis

Angela Merkel is to receive a letter from her own party members, calling for urgent action on the country's refugee crisis, and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble says other countries must help pay to secure Europe's borders, even if they have to raise taxes to do it.
Refugees in a reception center in Hessen.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will face open rebellion from her own party on Monday, when a number of parliamentarians from her Christian Democratic Union party, and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, hand her a letter calling for urgent action on refugees.

The three-page letter, which Handelsblatt has seen, says "We are facing an overextension of our country."

Although it is understandable that Ms. Merkel opened the borders for humanitarian reasons, the letter's authors argue, they cannot remain open permanently. Therefore, the signatories demand that the German government "return to the strict application of existing law as a matter of urgency."

According to its organizers, "several dozen" CDU and CSU politicians have signed the letter.

The letter is not quite a declaration of war against Ms. Merkel, but it is a clear sign that her party is growing uneasy about Germany's refugee crisis.

Germany took in over 1 million refugees last year: more than any other E.U. country, and the German public is now balking at the social and economic cost of integrating the newcomers. More than half of Germans, 56 percent, now describe Merkel's refugee policy as bad according to a current poll by the ZDF public broadcaster.

Those worries have been exacerbated by the fact that a number of men, described as North African or Arab, sexually assaulted and robbed women outside Cologne's main train station on New Year's Eve.

The German government is now pushing for other European countries to take up their share of responsibility for both securing Europe's borders and processing asylum-seekers.

The E.U. had already agreed on an aid package of €3 billion ($3.3 billion) with Turkey in order to better equip the refugee camps in that country and to house 2.5 million Syrians closer to their homeland, but hardly any of this money has yet materialized.

Now Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, wants all E.U. countries to impose an additional gasoline tax to help pay for aid to refugees.

His proposals, made in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, are Germany's latest attempt to find ways to spread the cost of the refugee crisis across Europe.

This is a pernicious idea from a German finance minister ‎who is having to find the money to pay for Ms. Merkel's disastrous open-door asylum policy. Steven Woolfe, UKIP migration spokesman

Mr. Schäuble said Europe now needs to secure its borders as a priority, and that goal should "not fail due to a limitation of funds," he said.

Mr Schäuble said that if E.U. countries could not find money to deal with the refugee crisis from their existing budgets, they should create new levies, such as his proposed gasoline levy, to pay for it.

His comments come as Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union, threatened to take the German government to court unless "they legally re-establish orderly conditions in the next 14 days on the borders." Mr. Seehofer is also premier of the state of Bavaria, where many of the new arrivals are entering Germany.

A previous CSU leader, Edmund Stoiber, laid down an ultimatum to Ms. Merkel over the weekend to "change her position" saying the number of refugees arriving in the country had to be reduced by March, when there are three important regional elections, "or she won't be able to avoid a confrontation."

Ms. Merkel could be able to strengthen her position if she can deliver on her promise to make the rest of Europe help shoulder the burden of the refugee crisis. Judging by initial responses to Mr. Schäuble's proposals, it is not clear that she can.

The Greek finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, supported the Germans, saying "New money is needed."

In Austria, the liberal opposition party NEOS welcomed Mr. Schäuble’s idea. With the taxes, the E.U. could “finally show our unanimous solidarity,” said MEP Angelika Mlinar.

But most other countries were unwilling to raise taxes to pay for the refugee crisis. France supports the efforts to put more money into the border security - but wants to do it without raising taxes. "The issue of taxes is very difficult," said the spokesman for Finance Minister Michel Sapin. "We are not proponents of higher taxes paid by the French - we lowered them this year."

In Britain only the euroskeptic UKIP responded to Mr. Schäuble's proposals. And they were not happy. "This is a pernicious idea from a German finance minister ‎who is having to find the money to pay for Ms. Merkel's disastrous open-door asylum policy," UKIP’s migration spokesman, Steven Woolfe, said.

But it is clear that one way or another, the decision each country takes on refugees has an impact on other countries.

After Denmark reintroduced border controls, Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano announced on Sunday that a second so-called hotspot for registration of refugees would open in Italy.

And Austria has said it will get stricter with asylum-seekers.

In an interview with a tabloid newspaper, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said: "Anyone who comes to us will be intensely monitored. Those without the right to asylum or who have no application for asylum will be turned away."

Germany too is getting stricter about who it allows in. According to sources in the German interior ministry, the number of new arrivals being turned back is increasing here too.


Quelle: dpa
Mr. Schäuble is proposing a Europe-wide gasoline tax.
(Source: dpa)


Furthermore, the CDU and CSU want to classify Algeria and Morocco as safe countries of origin, and thus block asylum applications from these countries.

Currently, nearly all asylum applications from Algerians and Moroccans are denied, but citizens of the two North African countries undergo a long evaluation process before their applications are eventually rejected.

Despite the slim chances of being allowed to stay, the numer of those arriving from the two North African countries is increasing. The number of Algerians seeks asylum rose to 2,296 in December from 847 in June, while the number of Moroccans rose to 2,896 from 368, according to the interior ministry.

According to a report in Welt am Sonntag, one option being considered by officials is to place asylum-seekers from the two countries in special repatriation centers to fast-track their deportations, similar to those being set up for migrants from the Balkan countries that are already deemed safe countries of origin.

The German government is also appealing to the governments of the two countries to do more to facilitate the repatriations.

The focus on the two countries comes in the light of the thefts and sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve. The majority of the suspects identified by the police so far have been from Morocco and Algeria.


Daniel Delhaes reports on politics, transport and airlines from Handelsblatt’s Berlin bureau; Thomas Hanke is the Handelsblatt’s Paris correspondent;  Carsten Herz is a London based correspondent for Handelsblatt; Jan Hildebrand is the deputy Berlin bureau chief; Regina Krieger is an editor with Handelsblatt in Düsseldorf; Thomas Ludwig is a correspondent in Brussels for Handelsblatt; Hans-Peter Siebenhaar is Handelsblatt’s correspondent in Vienna and covers the media sector. Siobhán Dowling, an editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition, contributed to this article. To contact the authors: [email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected]sieben[email protected].