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Christmas market attack in Berlin: what consequences does the event hold for Angela Merkel?

Could the Berlin bombing disadvantage Angela Merkel in the upcoming elections? Can it really be regarded as a disavowal of the migration policy put in place by the German Chancellor? In Berlin, emotion gives way to anger in the days following the attack on the Christmas Market. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is being blamed, and her admission policy, which she defended tooth and nail during the migratory crisis, is exposed to growing criticism.

A shared responsibility

2017. 01. 09. - 00:00
19th of December 2016, shortly after 8 pm. On the Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, where the Christmas market of the capital was located, a dramatic scene unravels. A 38-ton heavyweight has just driven through the crowd, leaving twelve dead and forty-eight wounded in its wake. Germans are in shock. Responsibility for the attack is claimed the next day by "the Islamic State", and it is quickly labelled a "terrorist attack" by Angela Merkel. However, is it really not an expected, albeit dreaded, outcome of the much criticized policy of hospitality and tolerance that the Chancellor had established to face the migratory crisis?

With more than 16 billion euros released in the context of immigration and almost 1 million migrants welcomed, Germany made the headlines of the newspapers, in its quality of "promised land" for those who had had to leave their homeland for Europe. Today, for many political figures and German citizens, the attack on Monday night in Berlin seems to be one of the inevitable consequences of the political choices made by the German Chancellor during the migratory crisis. In the face of criticism of Angela Merkel's "open door" policy, Germany had already tightened its reception conditions by 2016, refusing the entry into German territory to more than 13,000 people, mostly Syrian, Afghan or Iraqi nationals. The number of refugees on German soil, however, still seemed too high for a large part of the population, who held protests during the July attacks last year. Indeed, the murderous attacks of 18 and 24 July, committed by young refugees whose asylum claims were rejected, were also claimed by the "Islamic State". These attacks had deeply wounded the public opinion and the Chancellor had to shorten her holidays to defend her policies in front of the population.

A boon for populists

The German extreme right was able to take advantage of the circumstances to reaffirm its anti-immigration position. Indeed, parties like Alternativ für Deutschland (AFD), which have experienced a real boom in recent years, have taken advantage of the lethargy of the German population following the news, only to condemn the choices of Angela Merkel and to place her at the top of the list of those responsible for the attack. Marcus Pretzell, one of the AfD's elected representatives, even went as far as to claim that the victims of the attack were the " deads of Merkel " ... The same goes for the extreme-right parties of the neighboring countries, such as the French Front National, who took the opportunity to recall the alleged misdeeds of the wave of immigration that hit Europe in recent years. This is the case of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who took advantage of the fact that the first suspected culprit, ultimately released later, migrated to the country, to declare that "the Islamist terrorist is a migrant".

Hard blow before the elections

Anis Amri, the main suspect of the Berlin attack, was eventually shot down in Milan. He was 24 years old. Tunisian, he had stayed in Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and then in Berlin before offering his services on jihadist sites. His journey appears as a disavowal of the policy chosen by the German Chancellor, since he was one of its beneficiaries. While the Chancellor and her party, the CDU, had recently gone up in the polls, and scored around 37°% of voting intentions in the next elections in several surveys, the circumstances of the attack clearly weaken her in the race for her fourth term. Critics also raised their voices in her own party, concerned about the measures taken by Merkel. The Bavarian branch of her party has long demanded the setting of an annual ceiling to limit the arrival of migrants. It is now up to the German Chancellor, who has had to resolve to support the candidacy of her Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier for the presidential elections, to recover, regain the confidence of German opinion and regain her place gradually in the heart of the Germans.

Controversial efficiency of the control policy

In fact, isn’t the inefficiency of the implemented immigration control policy the main problem? Indeed, if Anis Amri had initially been refused a residence permit on German territory, his expulsion could not be administered because Tunisia refused to recognize his status as a Tunisian ... Shouldn’t we then continue to welcome migrants from war zones, as is the case of Syrians for example, and decide faster on their entry, while expelling without hesitation radicalized foreigners?

Thus, criticism pours down on the German Chancellor and her management of the issue of migration since the Berlin bombing. However, does this really allow us to blame her? Faced with the migratory crisis, few leaders have been able to respond in an appropriate and sustainable way. It seems difficult to throw the first stone at her. If others had been able to assume their responsibilities by accepting the share of arrivals originally attributed to them, the issue of migration would today be definitely less "problematic" on European soil.

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