This semester I attended a lunch talk given by Carston Schapkow on the recent political climate in Germany, especially related to the rise of the right-wing populist party, Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD), which is currently the third-largest party in Germany and is the topic of much concerned discussion both in Germany and around the world. While the AfD began as a Eurosceptic party against the economic Eurozone, it has been more recently described as being German nationalist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and stands against the large number of immigrants that have come, and are still coming to Germany. After Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to welcome the wave of refugees, many native Germans became disgruntled as refugee camps sprouted throughout Germany. After the terrorist attack occurred during the Christmas market in Berlin, Germans felt vulnerable and began to look to AfD as a way to vanguard Germany’s security and stand for the voice of the “Volk” or the German people. Schapkow also pointed out that many similar populist parties are sprouting all over Europe.
Even though I was not surprised by the fact that Germany’s refugee crisis has led to anti-immigration sentiment, I was taken aback by the extent to which this has transferred into a political movement that is gaining power, not only in Germany but also all over Europe. The rise of populist parties in Europe is a testament to the fact that more Europeans are becoming dissatisfied with the incompetence of the EU and are looking to more hard-line parties and strong leaders who challenge the notion of unity and tolerance and stand for the voice of their own citizens. While I was in Germany last summer, I remember talking to many Germans (who like to talk about politics) that were dissatisfied with Merkel’s tolerant policies and found the refugees to be a nuisance to their life and their own German society. It seems as if the political climate in Europe is gradually brewing into a perfect storm, and I am eager to see how the political climate changes.