Friday, December 23, 2016

#europe

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Christmas markets are as much a part of German national life as the 14 July festivities are French (in Nice nearly 100 people died in a similar attack). That makes Monday’s attack seem like an unmistakable act of terror, apparently motivated by jihadism.

It may well turn out to be someone who had come to the country as an asylum seeker. But Merkel’s appeal at that subdued press conference was for the country to distinguish between terrorists and refugees, and to keep faith with her version of what it is to be German. “We will find strength for the life we want to live in Germany – free, united and open.”

In one sense, everything the chancellor said was intensely political. She faces elections next September, and her fate is a preoccupation for all of Europe. Yet there is a difference between conveying a potent political message and politicking; and not so much as a zephyr of politicking appeared to ruffle the trademark Merkel demeanour – reassuringly impassive as a dumpling, as always.

There was no overt concession to those colleagues who fear that her refugee policy, the subject of so much criticism on the right, is likely to eat savagely into her – and their – majority. Nothing explicitly betrayed the challenge she will face from her partners in government, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), who are ramping up the pressure on her. There was certainly no nod in the direction of the far right’s charge that the casualties of Monday night’s attack were “Merkel’s dead”.

Merkel has established herself as the best and strongest voice of the values of a liberal Europe, and her steadfastness under pressure – at least her rhetorical steadfastness, for her policies have been modified to accommodate some of her critics’ concerns – is a beacon in a continent that is increasingly inward turning, nativist and afraid.

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