The Economist observes how the refugee crisis has highlighted the German nation’s exemplary moral leadership, starting with this poignant statistic:
Whereas most nations struggle to accept even a handful of refugees, the Germans seem broadly enthusiastic about the idea, owing in part to their history.
For 70 years the Germans have atoned for their dark past and yearned to be seen as good. Hearing their name cried out neither in fear nor in a football stadium but in gratitude and hope touched the public enough to turn them, at least for now, in favour of a Willkommenskultur (“welcome culture”).
Germany was already doing more than its fair share. It takes 40% of the EU’s refugees. 413,000 applied for asylum in Germany in the first eight months of 2015 and 800,000 are expected to do so over the full year. No matter; for now, the people want to do more.
Celebrities are volunteering to help. Corporate bosses are demanding that rules be loosened so that they can hire refugees as apprentices or workers. Even sport has got in on the act. Bayern Munich, the country’s richest football club, will donate €1m ($1.12m) to the cause. When its players walked out on to the pitch to play FC Augsburg on September 12th, each held hands with both a refugee child and a German one.
While German society is hardly unanimous in its welcoming of so many migrants, it is far ahead of most others in its willingness to shelter some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Some citizens have even launched an Airbnb-style service that helps connects refugees with households willing to host them. Austria and Sweden are also commendable in taking in a proportionately large number of asylum seekers.
Germany’s sudden elevation as a destination of choice for migrants fleeing both political and economic hardship is not due solely to geographic proximity or friendliness to foreigners; an OECD study cited in the Washington Post found that the country’s enviable degree of prosperity, stability, and good governance have led it to surpass Canada and the United Kingdom as the second-most desired place for immigrants to move to, after the United States.
The Post also points out how Germany’s goodwill and openness could be in its own self interest; the country’s aging and steadily declining population is in desperate need for young laborers, and the hundreds of thousands of potential nationals pouring in could help keep its impressive economy afloat.
Though Germany will no doubt struggle to economically and socially integrate this influx of people, it stands to gain a considerable long-term boost to its economic and moral leadership.