Europe needs common standards

The refugee crisis is a chance to revive Europe's humanitarian heritage. Germany and the German people are taking the lead, says Loay Mudhoon

By Loay Mudhoon

These are the images that have taken the world by storm: refugees pouring into Germany have been met by incredible gestures of spontaneous compassion this last week, especially at Munich's main station. The unprecedented solidarity with those in need is proof positive of the German public′s commitment to handling the refugee crisis effectively. People have been volunteering in droves, assuming personal responsibility for the situation – and even taking over tasks conventionally assigned to civil servants.

The sentiments of a civilised society are reflected in such empathy and dedication. They remain a remarkable testimony to what the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, recently referred to as "universal European values". We should be proud of this country and its wonderful people.

Welcomed with open arms

There is no question: over the next few years and maybe even decades, the influx of refugees to Germany will present the nation with some major challenges, economic as well as social. The immigration history of the Federal Republic of Germany, however, indicates just how adept the country is at integrating people.

Let us not forget that the Federal Republic of Germany managed to integrate millions of displaced people from Eastern European countries following the Second World War, not to mention its subsequent reunification at the end of the Cold War and the internal migration that prompted. During the 1990s, moreover, hundreds of thousands of Balkan War refugees also found protection and homes in Germany.

The European Commission in Brussels (photo: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Kalker)
In favour of a common European asylum and refugee policy: "To really help people fleeing war, persecution and terror, we need common European standards on the treatment of asylum seekers and those seeking employment", writes Mudhoon

Despite Germany's economic power and these impressive achievements, questions about just how many new arrivals its towns and cities can absorb are naturally valid – along with concerns about what impact the refugees from Africa and the Middle East will have on the country in the medium to long term.

Frequently, however, there has been a lack of distinction between the voicing of legitimate concerns and burgeoning racial resentment. This could prove problematic, allowing in its wake the immigration debate in Germany to take a turn for the worse. The heart-warming accounts of a welcoming culture would be sidelined, replaced by irrational fears and scaremongering. Ultimately this would play into the hands of right-wing populists.

Should anyone be in any doubt: Germany’s democratic system is also robust enough to hold any refugees turned criminal accountable for their crimes.

Germany the pioneer

With the refugee crisis affecting the European Union in its entirety, German politicians can be said to have revived Europe′s humanitarian heritage. Mere appeals for common European solidarity are, however, futile.

To really help people escape from war, persecution and terrorism, common European standards are required to deal with asylum seekers and those seeking employment. No EU country will be able to handle the refugee crisis successfully without common asylum laws, migration regulations, or legal access to European labour markets.

And because the problems can only be resolved on a European level, it is consistent and logical for Germany to urge other Europeans to live up to our "universal European values" by promoting humane asylum laws throughout the EU.

Loay Mudhoon

© 2015