The following interview was published by Deutschlandfunk (German Public Broadcasting), presumably from a radio transcript. Many thanks to JLH for the translation.
Note: The situation on the ground is changing rapidly. After this interview took place Germany was been forced to close the pipeline from Austria to shut off the gusher of “refugees” pouring in.
“Like a Hippie State — Led by Feelings”
September 8, 2015 — British Political Scientist Anthony Glees, interviewed by Tobias Armbrüster for Deutschlandfunk
Armbrüster: “Willkommenskultur” (Welcoming Culture) could be the next German word that gains currency in English usage. At least that is what the British daily The Guardian is writing lately. In fact, there is an astonished observation in many countries at the moment of how the Germans are not only welcoming refugees, but greeting them, providing for them and even inviting them to stay in the country. This does not quite fit with the image of Germany in the rest of the world, that is characterized by arrogance and a fair share of xenophobia. On the telephone right now is Anthony Glees, a political scientist at the University of Buckingham. He has watched British-German relations closely for years. Good morning, Professor Glees.
Glees: Good Morning
Armbrüster: Mr. Glees, when you heard about the shouts of welcome, for example in the Munich main railroad station recently, how much did that surprise you?
Glees: That surprised me very much. Not because I don’t think the German government has any humanitarian feeling, but because Germany — especially during the Greek crisis — has based itself on the laws. And what Mrs. Merkel and the Federal Republic have done in regard to Hungary seemed to be illegal. That was a great puzzle for connoisseurs and friends of Germany in Great Britain.
Armbrüster: How do you solve that riddle? What is your explanation for it?
Glees: I don’t know. I think, it can be, that Germany has historical feelings the British do not have. It may be that there is still in 2015 a memory of what occurred with refugees before the Second World War in 1938/1939. But for us in Great Britain, presently not only battling terrorism, and faced with solving not only the economic, but also the humanitarian immigrant problem, the German attitude seemed casual and not properly thought through — especially so, when the Germans are not following the rules in things European. People may think what they will about the Hungarian government, but the rules are there, and if Germany does not abide by them, then, some say, the Union will fall apart.
Armbrüster: So this view of a Germany that adheres strictly to the rules, is that collapsing?
Glees: Precisely, and that is a great difference — the tectonic plates are shifting, when Germany acts like a hippie-state, which is guided only by feelings. David Cameron expressed my reaction when he said yesterday in the lower House [of Commons] that Great Britain must naturally act from its heart, but it must also act with its mind. And the question in Great Britain is: If Mrs. Merkel is following this policy now — quite different from the policy followed with Greece — how will it all end? Great Britain is militarily involved in the battle — a fight to the death against the so-called Islamic State. Germany, on the other hand, still stays out of such things. But to say, at the same time, to the desperate, poor peoples in Syria and Iraq, please come to the Federal Republic, that seems to many British people to be insane. It will never end!
Armbrüster: So that means that many British are astounded to learn about that, but they do not feel called upon to emulate the Germans and say: Come to us, too?
Glees: No, not emulate. David Cameron said that we will take 40,000 people from the Syrian camps, that is the refugees who are not in Syria, but in Lebanon and Jordan, but we will take no one who is attempting to enter the EU illegally. That is his principle. Because if you do that with some, then you would have to do it with all of them. It would be impossible and the problem would never end, if there were a permanently open door. And there is another consideration for the British. These refugees come to Germany, but after five years they receive ID papers which allow them to travel anywhere in the European Union. As you know, Great Britain is not a member of the Schengen accords. At the moment, they cannot come to Great Britain legally. But in five years, it is possible that millions who have come to Germany will move to France and other EU countries, then to Great Britain. That is the feeling, and it is very dangerous. I would even say that it is undemocratic. To have a sensible humanitarian policy, it is necessary to be able to distinguish between people who want to come to Europe out of desperation, and those who — understandably — are coming for economic reasons. That has to be emphasized.
Armbrüster: Professor Glees, this debate is going on here among us, too — the question of who can stay here and who should be sent back. But let me return to the image of Germany. What is resonating in Great Britain these days, when these pictures from Germany are shown? Is it admiration or, as you have just mentioned, is it fear that the Germans are opening the door and people may come to us, and then to the rest of Europe, and we know nothing of their motives?
Glees: That is the fear: that the character of Europe will be fundamentally changed by the German approach. But also that the Germans will not follow the rules — their own Schengen rules. If it occurs to Germany that special measures should be taken — exceptions made — then Germany will do that, and I think that is a very knotty problem. You could argue — as do some in Great Britain, who I think are wrong — that Great Britain should leave the EU, that the EU is a superstate that wants to control everything. In the refugee crisis, we see just the opposite. No one can control it. There are thousands in Calais trying to come through the Channel tunnel. Giving in to this lawlessness can mean the end of the Union. That would be terrible.
Armbrüster: Angel Merkel has also recently said that what is needed in this situation is German flexibility. Isn’t she coming close to the British there, because they are world champions in political flexibility?
Glees: Pardon me for laughing when you put those two words together — Germans and flexibility. Germans are the people of the constitutional state, who follow laws, and may do that with their hearts, but always with their brains. That is now completely upside down, and many believe that the Germans have misplaced their brains.
Armbrüster: So that means that this approach to things does not make Germans more sympathetic in the eyes of other nations, at least not for you in Great Britain,
Glees: Quite unsympathetic, and I regret that very much. The European Union cannot always allow itself to be managed by France and Germany. That is very important for the new democracies and those on the southern edge of the European Union to see. Either this terrible problem is… Many people in Great Britain have family histories that contain immigrants. The Queen herself, as is known, comes from a German family, My family too has immigrants. This is a terrible problem. But it can only be solved by laws and the agreement of all participants. It cannot be solved by only Germany and France and perhaps Italy.
Armbrüster: These analyses were from Professor Anthony Glees, a political scientist at the University of Buckingham. Thank you, Mr. Glees, for your time this morning.
Glees: My pleasure.