“Germany remains Germany.” This was the closing statement of Angela Merkel’s speech to the Bundestag this week defending her “humanitarian policy” on refugees. Her words sound at the same time like a reassurance and a claim: The Federal Republic is and will remain a strong and prosperous country, and its constitution recognizes the right of any persecuted foreigner to asylum.
The main recipient of the chancellor’s message was not the right-wing party dangerously on the rise, Alternative for Germany (AfD), but the CSU, the Bavarian Christian Social Union, now antagonizing Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. The distance between Munich and Berlin is huge, and since Thursday it’s clear that they will keep widening. The Bavarians have drawn up an official document, which is a proclamation of war. “Germany must remain Germany”: the phrase is a slogan that sounds like an open challenge to Merkel.
The difference is the “must,” a hefty verb which suggests the danger that Germany may be losing itself, its identity, with the current policy on refugees. An identity that conservative CSU interprets in a radically different way from the chancellor: Christian Germany is at risk of distortion.