Last Friday the Greens of Baden-Württemberg voted in favour of reclassifying Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as “safe” countries of origin – hence lending their support to the Merkel government’s asylum reform in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament. In other words, asylum seekers coming from those countries will find it almost impossible to have their asylum granted. This is particularly bad for Roma, who will have to prove actual threats to be granted asylum.
The national Green party had a massive row about this, with many of the normal, good Green party members mad as a cut snake with Winfried Kretschmann, the Baden-Württemberg state premier, and the only state premier the Greens have ever had, who voted with the government.
You could argue that Kretschmann’s compromise did a lot for asylum seekers in general – the government agreed to scrap the Residenzpflicht (which forced them to stay in certain areas), which was one of the central demands of both the Green party and the asylum seekers who marched to Berlin and camped out at Oranienplatz last year. It will also now be easier for asylum seekers to find work, since employers no longer have to prove that a German national couldn’t do the job to hire an asylum seeker – another Green party demand.
Pro Asyl have pointed out that these compromises are pretty shabby, for one reason or another: loosening the Residenzpflicht, for example, had been pledged by the government in the coalition contract, and the work permit is not a blanket deal: it’s still granted at the discretion of the authorities.
The compromise has really damaged the Green party, which now looks completely undermined and divided. Trade-offs like this reinforce people’s suspicion that whenever a politician gets anywhere close to power, they drop their social justice principles. Kretschmann is the only Green party member with any real power, and, presto, he’s the only one of them who saw fit to make the asylum compromise with Merkel and the SPD.
This is why some people think politicians are shape-shifting lizards. But maybe power itself is inherently a conservative’s domain that naturally fucks over the world’s poorest to smooth the path for the elites. After all, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is the only SPD member with any power over the German economy at the moment, and – whaddayaknow – he favours the TTIP deal that everyone agrees is going to let American corporations turn Europe into a Wal-Mart.
But maybe if I had any power to affect other people’s lives I would agree with it too. But if that’s true, is it really power at all? If you inevitably abandon social justice when you’re in power maybe power doesn’t really exist? What if the purpose of the universe itself is to fuck over poor people and asylum seekers? Philosophical.