Fortune Writer Whines At Time 'Person of Year' Merkel 'Reversing Course' on 'Refugees'

December 15th, 2015 3:00 PM

The year isn't even over, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Time's 2015 Person of the Year, has begun to act against the primary reason why the magazine chose her.

To refresh from a NewsBusters post last week, Time's Nancy Gibbs cited three reasons for the choice. The clearly most important one, from their perspective, was Merkel's virtually unilateral decision that Germany "would welcome refugees as casualties of radical Islamist savagery, not carriers of it" without apparent restriction. Now Merkel has, as described by a writer at Time Inc. sister publication Fortune, "backpedaled" from that stance.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported:

Germany will reduce its migrant influx, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised her conservative party Monday, insisting that she's still confident her diplomatic efforts will work and Europe will pass the "historic test" posed by the refugee crisis.

..."We want to, and will, appreciably reduce the number of refugees, because it's in everyone's interest," Merkel said in a confident speech to her Christian Democratic Union that was greeted with a standing ovation.

Still the chancellor — who last week was named Time magazine's Person of the Year — stuck to her optimistic mantra, insisting that Germany can handle the migrant crisis "because it is part of the identity of our country to do great things."

Her decision in early September to let in migrants who had piled up in Hungary was "no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative," she added.

Merkel has made clear that she wants to reduce the influx but has resisted calls to set a specific limit on the number of refugees Germany can take ...

Given the lack of specifics, Merkel's moves are arguably cynical and disingenuous. Nevertheless, Geoffrey Smith at Fortune characterized them as having "backpedaled" and "reversing course," and appears to be more than a little bitter about it:

Angela Merkel Just Backpedaled on Syrian Migrants in a Very Big Way
Merkel pledged that she will “markedly reduce” the number of migrants entering Germany next year.

It would (probably) be not only cynical but wrong to suggest that Angela Merkel was just waiting till she was named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ before ditching her signature policy of welcoming a record inflow of migrants to Germany.

Still, from a distance, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s just what she’s done. By reversing course, it looks like she has also ensured that she will serve out the rest of her third term as German Chancellor.

After weeks of mounting criticism from inside her party, the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel pledged that she will “markedly reduce” the number of migrants entering Germany next year, acknowledging concerns that “even a strong country like Germany will be overwhelmed in the long term by such a high number of refugees.”

Reducing the flow of people (she referred to them overwhelmingly as “refugees” rather than “migrants” in her hour-long speech) “is in Germany’s interest and Europe’s…. It’s also in the interest of the refugees themselves,” she said.

... Merkel had reportedly spent hours wrangling over a new policy line with party grandees on Sunday, from the party’s youth and business wings to regional associations in eastern Germany who are witnessing a sharp rise in attacks on migrants and their hostels. Her approval ratings have slumped from a peak of over 50% to just over 35% in only three months, raising the possibility of a party rebellion against her. However, a 10-minute standing ovation (which she had to end herself by telling the delegates “Get back to work!”) was interpreted by German media as a sign that she had pulled off yet another successful Merkelesque fudge.

... Although she would be the last to admit it, Merkel’s shift on Monday brings her closer to the position of the U.K.’s David Cameron, who earned some stinging rebukes in the summer for suggesting that the best policy was to pay to keep refugees coming from Syria as close to their home country as possible while finding a way to end the war there. It also brings her closer to the position of Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Slovakia’s Robert Fico, both of whom have warned (albeit in more lurid terms) of the limited capacity of local populations to accept large-scale Muslim immigration.

... Her rhetoric may still be compassion, but her policy has turned decidedly pragmatic. Still, there’s no recorded case of Time rescinding its Person of the Year.

Smith's rose-colored glasses are firmly in place. He has noticed a "sharp rise in attacks on migrants and their hostels," but manages to ignore or is unaware of migrant-committed gang rapes or individual incidents such as this ("Muslim migrant screaming 'Allahu akbar' and 'Islamic State' attacks police, seriously injuring two").

Smith almost seems to be hoping for a Person of the Year rescission. It's not happening.

Although Merkel's moves are not as severe as Smith has portrayed them, it's clear that he is betraying a sense of companywide embarrassment at Time Inc. Well, you guys won't find any sympathy here. You had it coming.

Cross-posted at