The Brief – Germany: Europe’s Janus

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

The day after the new leader of the Christian Democrats, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, distanced herself from Angela Merkel’s migration legacy, economists published a report showing that Germany needs at least 260,000 migrants a year by 2060 if the country is to meet its skilled labour needs.

To Ancient Romans, Janus was the god of the beginnings and the ends, presiding over every entrance and departure, and because every door and passageway looks in two directions, Janus was seen as two-faced or Janus bifrons — the god who looked both ways.

The very same can be applied to Germany when it comes to the highly sensitive issue of immigration, fueled, of course, by a number of upcoming elections:

Not only are the next European elections getting seriously closer, but on that same day, no less than nine local elections will also take place in Germany.

They will be followed in September and in October by three regional elections – in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia. That is, in three Länder that once belonged to former East Germany and where the far-right AfD is expecting and expected to score high.

On Monday (11 February), Kramp-Karrenbauer unveiled plans for a tightening of immigration rules, part of her efforts to steer the party away from her mentor and predecessor, Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“What happened in September 2015 and after was a humanitarian exception,” she told her CDU party. “We must make sure nothing like it ever happens again, that we have learned our lessons,” she said.

Some of the proposals, including plans for “intelligent spot checks” at German borders for as long as the European Union’s external borders are not secured, could strain ties with her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners.

But officials hope the plans, announced after two days of internal party discussions to which Merkel was not invited, will show the CDU has moved on from the Chancellor’s signature decision to let in more than a million refugees in 2015.

The message delivered the following day (12 February) by the Institute for Employment Research and the University of Coburg came as a cat among the pigeons.

The study, conducted for the Bertelsmann Foundation, has found that migrant labour from within the EU will fall short of the economy’s needs. To plug the gap, Germany will need as many as 260,000 workers per year from outside the country.

Of that number, 146,000 people each year would need to immigrate from non-EU countries, the research said.

Jörg Dräger, the executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation, pointed out that only 38,000 workers came and stayed in Germany in 2017, according to official figures.

It remains to be seen how Germany will strike a balance between its needs and political wishes.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Europe has lost touch with its people, Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte told the European Parliament in Strasbourg amid heavy criticism from MEPs.

Italy’s 5-Star Movement tries to undermine a planned railway tunnel underneath the Alps to France, denouncing it as a waste of money. It could ratchet up tensions between Rome and Paris.

Serbia snags a piece of Turkish Stream pipeline pie as Belgrade has been given the go-ahead to build a section from the Bulgarian to the Hungarian border, but…

… the EU also brokered a deal on rules to govern Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Following the rejection of the Alstom-Siemens merger, France and Germany are working on a review of the EU’s competition rules to create European champions capable of competing with the US and Chinese multinationals.

A “climate of impunity” has taken hold in parts of Europe, where media freedom is increasingly under attack, a Council of Europe report warns.

A UK government-commissioned report, meanwhile, has called for extra support to be given to smaller news outlets, including an innovation fund for local news and tax relief for public interest journalism.

Brussels has included Saudi Arabia and Panama in an extended ‘blacklist’ of uncooperative jurisdictions in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

After a meeting between the SPD party people and the EU’s Commissioner for Economic Affairs in Berlin, all called for fairer taxation in Europe.

Renewable energy use in Europe is still increasing, although a slowdown in overall development has continued.

And Theresa May has admitted that she “scrapes mould off the top of jam and eats what’s underneath“… The UK really is a weird place isn’t it.

Look out for…

It’s Valentine’s Day! Also, it’s the last day of the Strasbourg plenary session. Check out the agenda here.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Sam Morgan and Zoran Radosavljevic]

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