The Merkel Plan: Restoring Control; Retaining Compassion

Written by | Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Team of Authors (European Stability Initiative)

One of the key accompanying attributes of the current migration crisis is also the inability of political elites to come up with a clear, realistic and yet not a populist plan to deal with the influx of people streaming to EU’s shores and further overland. From the highest political levels, one can mostly hear only general phrases emphasizing the necessity to find a “European solution” to the crisis and the need of solidarity among EU Member States or, conversely, radically formulated theses about the “invasion of Muslims” and appeals for stricter border controls.

The European Union is demonstrating its inability to implement a flexible response strategy at a time when it is crucial to act quickly and effectively. Yet, the ideas put forward, such as the redistribution of the burden among all EU Member States, the formation of a common asylum policy and the list of the so-called safe countries of origin are not bad in principle; their introduction would, however, not help protect the external borders of the Schengen area that are defined as primarily following the Greek shoreline, where most refugees arrive from Turkey. At the same time, these measures would not help decrease the number of migrants decided to get to Europe.

Since European summits have not up until now been able to produce satisfying results, it is up to Germany to come up with a coherent and effective plan that should also be in turn implemented by Berlin. Chancellor Merkel’s continuously high popularity at home, her huge prestige on the international scene and the amount of political capital that she has already invested in the crisis are all playing to her advantage. Hence, aided by Germany’s unilateral move, the EU could become more actionable in solving the migration crisis.

The basic pillar of such a plan is based on a close cooperation between Germany and Turkey. There are approximately 1.9 million registered Syrian refugees on Turkish territory and it is precisely here where most of them embark on their dangerous journey by sea. Germany should therefore over the course of the next twelve months select 500,000 Syrians and accept them as refugees (ideally in cooperation with other Member States). Since only Syrian refugees already registered in Turkey will be considered, motivation of others to set out to the Turkish border will likely be reduced.

To reciprocate, Turkey should agree to accept from a given date back those refugees who are detained on Greek shores. Refugees would therefore lose motivation to sail to Europe through the Aegean Sea. Thanks to a lower number of refugees, the external Schengen border running along the Greek coastline would thus be restored. The whole process of accepting refugees will then become more organized and the potentially restored control over the Aegean border could make Central European countries more willing to accept a fairer mechanism of the redistribution of asylum seekers.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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