Refugee crisis on the Greek-Turkish border
Europe's liberal warriors put democracy to the sword

The parties at the centre of Germany's political landscape have often exhorted citizens to distance themselves from the right-wing AfD party. And yet, Europe's response to what is happening on its outer border in Greece shows that the ruling centre has itself assimilated some fundamental nationalist ideas. An essay by Stefan Buchen

Recognising Europe's political intentions is quite easy this time around. Unambiguous actions have made these aims more than clear. Greek police officers have formed a phalanx at the border crossing and are shooting tear gas at refugees whom Erdogan has let through from the Turkish side. Anyone who secretly makes it over the fence or across the Evros River is hunted, captured and brought back over the border to the Turkish side. Boat refugees who reach Greek islands are beaten up by European civilians. The EU border control agency Frontex is sending reinforcements to Greece.

And Europe is demonstrating its political will no less clearly in words. "We cannot take you in here," says Friedrich Merz from the CDU, a candidate who aspires to lead the "middle-of-the-road" camp in Germany and succeed Angela Merkel as Chancellor. As justification, Merz suffices himself with saying that a "loss of control" must not be allowed to happen again. This is an abbreviated variant of radicalism that ignores the question "Are we really allowed to act like this?"

Unlike Merz, the European Union politician Manfred Weber from the CSU has deigned to explain things in more detail. In an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, he cites a legal justification for the complete sealing off of the outer borders. When asked if this is in fact permitted, the answer is yes.

The hysterical fear of a "collective assault"

Weber refers here to a decision handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in February. The court found it admissible to reject two asylum seekers, a Malian and an Ivorian, at the border between Morocco and the Spanish exclave of Melilla, without allowing them to state their case.

Many children are among the refugees on the border of Greece and Turkey (photo: dpa/picture-alliance)
Name your price, Erdogan: the EU Commission's only plan to defuse the refugee drama and the conflict with Turkey is to offer more financial aid for the refugees. As the news agency AFP learned from EU circles on Thursday, the agency plans to provide a further half a billion euros for the 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. According to the report, the money is to come in addition to the six billion euros promised to Ankara in a refugee agreement concluded in 2016

Such instant dismissals are prohibited under international law. All EU member states signed the convention that sets down this ban. The ECHR justified the legality of denying the two Africans the chance to submit asylum applications by saying that they tried to climb over the border fence, thus disturbing public safety and order.

CSU politician Weber is now applying the same argument to the situation on the Turkish-Greek border. A "collective assault" on the European border is taking place there, he claims. Therefore, the police have the right to shoot tear-gas at those approaching the border. Manfred Weber compares the situation on the border with demonstrations in Germany that have escalated into violence. Here too, the police have the right to resort to force. 

A collective assault? That makes it sound like an invading army. But that is not how the more than 10,000 refugees who have approached the Greek border are behaving. First, they were turned back. Then there were isolated violent clashes between refugees and police. But the vast majority of those seeking asylum have abstained from any violence. And what about the families with children who are toughing it out on the border? In the doctrine of constitutional law according to Manfred Weber, all of them must be assumed to be participating in a collective assault.

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