Angela Merkel has repeatedly said that it will take time to solve the refugee crisis. But impatience is growing, particularly following the sexual assaults in Cologne. Voices of discontent are getting louder and the chancellor’s hold on power may be weakening.
The most unusual tribunal in the republic meets around 25 times per year, usually on Tuesdays in the gray-panelled conference room on the third floor of the Reichstag where conservative parliamentarians often meet. At the front sits the defendant, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her accusers sit at the long rows of tables before her, the three or four dozen back benchers who are increasingly adopting the tone of a public prosecutor when addressing Merkel’s refugee policies.
Last week saw the most recent such session. “We must finally begin to effectively register the refugees,” said Armin Schuster, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats who specializes in domestic affairs. “We can’t keep quiet about uncomfortable truths,” complained fellow-CDU member Klaus-Peter Willsch. Mark Hauptmann, another conservative from the state of Thuringia, said: “We have to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to Germany from the Balkans.”
The accused, who in the past had made a habit of delivering extended remarks in her own defense, said nothing this time in response. She silently listened to the accusations while tapping listlessly into her mobile phone or staring at the ceiling in annoyance.
It wasn’t all that long ago that things were radically different. Only a month ago, the CDU met in Karlsruhe for its annual party conference and Merkel’s refugee policies received a standing ovation. Merkel took the stage intent on placating her critics and she promised a “noticeable decrease” in the number of refugees coming to Germany. The pledge was well received by the delegates present — such that newspapers wrote afterwards of Merkel’s “triumph.”