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Germany: where are we? Where are we going?

Posted by Mad Mitch on UTC 2018-07-10 09:57.

After a month of political crisis in Germany, a month of days, on almost each of which someone was going to resign or be sacked or be defeated or be crushed or be triumphant, we observers struggle to find the just metaphor. 'Damp squib'? Far too energetic – 'damp' on its own would be quite sufficient, but grammar demands something else. 'Damp sock'? That'll do for the moment. Cold and unpleasant, certainly no source of amusement, best avoided, in fact, but no danger to life or limb, unless for trench foot.

And what of the 'solution' that ended this uproar? The political talkshows turn over the stones of the agreement and find that there is nothing to talk about whatever. Experts sit around on sofas in German TV studios and wonder what to say. After a month of headlines the Figures of Speech German Politics motto is once more dazzlingly vindicated: nothing changes.

There was a special EU meeting. The word 'special' gives it more dignity than it had. It was in reality the traditional euro-meeting that ends in the early hours simply because the participants are too exhausted to continue – at the wheel of a motor vehicle they would be prosecuted; in the wheelhouse of the ship of state it's OK to be semi-conscious.

In between snores the somnolents agreed to agree to allow Germany to set up 'Transit Centres' to process the tsunami of little Horst Seehofer's illegals and to share out even more migrants amongst themselves in solidarity. The eastern bloc, who are the angriest and the most serious about the invaders, didn't even bother to attend, having had their fill of 'solidarity' in the half century after the end of the Second World War.

Then little Horst and Mutti Merkel had a another night and early morning meeting – that bad habit learned from Benelux town hall politics that would have shocked Bismarck, were he so unfortunate to be around at this hour. Would little Horst stamp his foot one last time and resign or would he keep the ministerial car and salary? Guess.

That's right! See, you are getting good at this: the current proposal – whatever it is, no one is really sure – is suddenly palatable to Horst and he is chauffered off in the waiting BMW. In ponderous commentaries we are told that the Chancellor was 'damaged/weakened/wounded/unmoved' by all this. Ditto Seehofer and the CSU. But everyone involved kept their job, their salary and their car and driver.

It was a bad day for German politics, we are told. No, it wasn't. 30 January 1933 was a bad day, this was just the business as usual that is built into the modern system.

Seehofer's internment procedure has turned into an intelligence test for asylum seekers. No, that's not right – a 'stupidity test' is more correct, for if on the NGO ferry you are stupid enough to hang onto the passport of your country of origin and then once landed are stupid enough to register for asylum in, say, Spain and then are stupid enough to cross into Germany at one of the three (out of ninety) border crossings that have a Transit Centre and then are stupid enough to show them your collected documents you might just end up in one of Colditz Seehofer's Transit Centres.

From there you might just be sent back to Spain or whatever other country you passed through with a stiff warning: don't come back or we shall send you back again! If they catch you, that is.

When our stupid asylum seeker is back in Spain, he is astonished and hurt to find that that country doesn't want him either, so he will be sent somewhere else – Germany, perhaps. Even the most stupid asylum seekers have now got the message, dumped their documents and wandered into Germany across the thousands of kilometres of 'green border' or via one of the other 87 border posts without a Transit Centre.

How many utterly stupid asylum seekers does Germany expect? In their three Transit Centres? The SPD, fretting about Germany's past as a nation of camp managers, is told: no more than about ten each. Obviously clever people, these asylum seekers. Certainly cleverer than CSU politicians.

Will the migration-friendly coalition partners, the SPD, accept the thwack of Horst's immigration jackboot on their bottoms? or will the 'fragile' coalition break apart? Of course they do and of course it won't.

The intelligent asylum seekers – the vast majority – on the other hand, dump their documents in the Mediterranean. In future years archaeologists following the traces of the Sea People three millennia ago will be puzzled by the piles of passports on the seabed.

Clever migrants tell the Spaniards that their third cousin thrice removed lives in Bochum and that is where they wish to declare asylum – there, in the bosom of their family. Which Spanish official is going to say 'No, you must register here in Spain. We will support you.'? Not many, it is safe to say. 'Here's the train ticket, off you toddle – hasta la vista, baby. Not!'

'Ho-Ho-Ho' you chortle, 'Very amusing. But let's see what happens in the Bavarian elections in mid-October'.

Who cares? It matters not a jot. Even if the CSU loses its traditional majority in Bavaria these are only state elections – they affect nothing at federal level. There will be some coalition in Bavaria with the CSU as a senior partner probably propped up by the Bavarian FDP. There will be headlines, overnight meetings, crises, more headlines – but nothing at all will happen to the federal government. They are there for another three years. And even if Mutti does take one last trip in the Merc, never to return, her successor will take care to have no noticeable effect on anything, either.

All the migration stuff – you know, the stuff that people care about – has floated up out of the federal government's septic tank and into the EU, well out of reach of the troublemakers. There it bobs around, part of a discourse that is about integration measures, access to work, diversity, hate speech – the usual stuff. German politicians talk about Bürgernähe, 'proximity to the citizen', when they really mean Bürgerferne, 'distance from the citizen'. Hence the force of that insult currently popular in the political class in Germany: populistisch.

Relax! It will all be so easy. Quite pleasant in fact. Find a place at the bar of the Muttitanic, line up the whisky sours, sing along to the band playing, over and over: Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei. Just don't attempt to storm the bridge. The time for that has passed; the ever-growing horde of cargo-deck passengers fished out of the sea will do that messy job for you soon enough.