Measures by the German government to limit the numbers of refugees entering the country are “extremely likely” to be introduced, announced Joachim Gauck, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, in an address to participants at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
Such a limitation strategy is “morally and politically necessary to preserve the state’s ability to function,” he added.
In German cities, recent events that challenge fundamental values such as tolerance, respect and the equality of women have made it clear that “migration is only politically viable to the extent that citizens are willing to accept it,” Gauck said.
While Gauck highlighted Germany’s humanitarian responsibility to take in victims of persecution, he cautioned that if democrats in the centre of politics do not talk about limitations, then “populists and xenophobes will ultimately set a limit.”
The rise in popularity of right-wing parties across Europe, along with near-daily attacks on refugee accommodation in Germany, highlight the urgency to negotiate consensus on the issue across society, according to Gauck.
The migration crisis has presented the European Union with its “biggest-ever test,” said Gauck. Member states must do more to support refugees in countries bordering Syria and Iraq. According to Gauck, a recent visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan confirmed his belief that most Syrians would rather secure shelter and income nearer home than travel to Europe.
Gauck encouraged countries to look at innovative solutions, such as creating a free trade zone in Jordan where refugees and Jordanians could work side-by-side to export products and services to Europe.
Gauck called for more effective protection for Europe’s external borders, with defined gateways to allow in those with a right to enter.
“Freedom of movement within the Schengen area can only be preserved if security is guaranteed at the external borders,” warned the German president. Failing that, national borders will once again become important.
Commenting on policies adopted by some Central European countries, Gauck said, “I find it difficult to understand when countries whose citizens once experienced solidarity as the victims of political persecution now deny solidarity to those fleeing persecution.” The president concluded his address by calling on European states to resist a retreat into national solutions, but rather to show solidarity in sharing Germany’s burden and renew efforts to shape a Europe in which everyone feels included.