German economy collapse inevitable, caused by migrant waves - MEP

The European Union is being deluged by a tidal wave of asylum seekers - hundreds of thousands flooding to Europe from the Middle East seeking safety, peace, and a better life. The crisis seems overwhelming, with many European states refusing to handle the problem. Germany faces the bulk of the flow, but will it be able to absorb more than a million migrants? Is Europe - and Germany, as the Union’s flagship - taking the right steps… do the politicians have any idea of how to deal with the issue? We pose these questions to a member of the European Parliament, regional leader of the Alternative for Germany party - Marcus Pretzell is on Sophie&Co today.

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Sophie Shevardnadze: Marcus Pretzell, member of European Parliament, regional leader of the Alternative for Germany party, welcome to the program, it’s great to have you with us. Now, Germany can expect up to one million refugees and migrants this year alone, according to Interior Ministry forecast; 60% of Germans believe their country can absorb the huge numbers predicted by the Ministry. Is a million new arrivals a figure that scares you?

Marcus Pretzell: It doesn’t scare me, but I think that German government doesn’t have any idea for solution of the problem, because, it will be one million, maybe even more, maybe 1.2 million people, but mostly it’s young men who come to Germany and they all get their families to Germany as well. If they live in Germany, it will not be one million - it will be 2-3, maybe even more people from Arab countries living in Germany, and that will change the country. I believe that German government has no answer for this big change in German society - and that scares a lot of people, of  course, and we need to find answers for the future of our country.

SS: I’m going to go in details for all of that in just a bit, but before that: Germany recently suspended the Dublin regulation for Syrian refugees, allowing them to apply for asylum at their final destination, as opposed to the country they enter the EU - now, this may take the strain off other Schengen states, but surely will create an unmanageable flow of migrants for Germany, right? 

MP: Right, that’s what we experienced. The German politicians in fact have suspended Dublin, that’s true. Germany takes more refugees than it should by the Dublin agreement, and many other countries don’t  take the number of immigrants or asylum seekers than they should take under Dublin agreement. We’ve had discussions in the EU about this in the last days and especially the Eastern European countries refused to take any more asylum-seekers from the Arab countries, so Dublin has been de-facto suspended, not only by Germany which is taking too many asylum-seekers, but also by other countries which are not taking the numbers that they are obliged to take by the Dublin agreement. 

SS: But also Germany is raising benefits for asylum-seekers and that is also one of the reasons why Germany is so popular as a destination for refugees - how do you stop migrants from abusing the system and taking advantage of the benefits? Some states have chosen to slash these benefits. What is the right thing to do in this situation?

MP: The asylum-seekers...they are just doing what the German system is offering to them, so they are not doing anything wrong, in fact. the problem is the German politics of this asylum industry, and we shouldn’t offer people too much money for coming here, to Germany. There are two countries in Europe that are following this kind of politics - that’s Germany and Sweden. That’s why more than half of the asylum-seekers that come to European Union apply for asylum in Germany or Sweden.

SS: Why do you think Germany is following that policy?

MP: I’ve no idea. You'd better ask Angela Merkel why she does this, but we are causing big trouble, not only in Germany but all over Europe. The Greeks and the Hungarians, the Austrians - they are really scared because of the situation that we created in their countries. 

SS: The WSJ says the U.S. is responsible for refugee crisis in Europe, a consequence of its foreign policy in the Middle East. Several German MPs have called onto the U.S. to step in and help Europe. Should the U.S. be sharing the costs of refugee crisis? I mean, Obama recently promised to accept 10,000 Syrians - is that really what Europe wants from America?

MP: Ha, ten thousand Syrians… That’s not much! There were 53,000 only Syrian refugees coming to Germany from January till August of this year. So, in only 8 months we took 53 thousand refugees from Syria, and there are more to come. So, ten thousand is nothing. What could help the situation in the long run…

SS: But do you think America should be sharing the costs of the whole refugee crisis with Europe?

MP: It would be nice, but I don’t believe they would. What would help in the long run is if they stopped causing crises all over those countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya - these crises is the result of the politics of the last 20 years of American politics in the Middle East.

SS: France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen says Germany wants to exploit refugees as cheap labor - is that right? I mean, isn’t it a good thing that Germany can actually offer jobs to asylum-seekers? 

MP: No, I don’t believe that, because most of the asylum seekers are not qualified for the German labor market. I think it would take many years to make them fit for the German labor market. We won’t exploit them, but we will pay for them. We’ll pay for them, for many years we will pay not only for them but also for their families if they follow those asylum seekers and it will cost us an awful lot of money and I don’t think that the German system can bear these costs.

SS: But, listen...Refugees, like you’ve said, you’re going to be paying for them, because they’re going to need housing, they need health services, spending allowances and all kinds of other help - is the German economy strong enough for these expenses? I mean, really strong enough? I don’t mean if it is going to be a bit of a strain, I mean, can it take it?

MP: As I said before, I believe that is too much, in two ways. First of all, economically, we are talking about maybe 3 million in the end, if count all those families that will follow the asylum-seekers. Three million people only in 2015. We already have 600,000 refused asylum-seekers that we don’t send back to their countries, that live in Germany for years and years, and I believe that our national system can’t take these costs; but what makes it even more difficult is the situation of our society, because most of the asylum-seekers are from Muslim countries and this will cause some serious trouble in our society.

SS: What does the Alternative for Germany party think is the right solution? I mean, you obviously think that everything that German government is doing is wrong - or are they doing something right currently?

MP: They’ve started to do something right, they have closed the borders - that is something that we already said in 2013: “We need to close the borders, that is possible.” In the Schengen treaty there are possibilities to close the borders; and what we experienced for years now is that asylum seekers that stepped on EU ground in Greece or in Italy, were sent further to Germany, and not in terms of the Dublin treaty. So, this is an old problem and we said: “We need to close the borders, we need to control the borders”. We wanted to take those asylum-seekers under Dublin treaty that we’re obliged to, and that is what the German government did right: now, they closed the borders, and now Austria and Hungary have closed their borders already, so this is what happens now. I think this is the right way to deal, in the short run, with this situation. 

SS: Just  this year, Germany has seen hundreds of arson attacks against refugee centers. Violence against migrants and even Red Cross workers. There’s no justification for such behavior - but are the opinion of the German public being ignored? I mean, when a town of 800 people is expected to house hundred refugees - then there are bound to be consequences. 

MP: Yes, we had some incidents, that is true. But, we had much more incidents of violence from asylum-seekers onto each other in those camps; we’ve even had some incidents from asylum-seekers that were violent against our police. So, it’s not only the German public that causes a problem. I think, there’s a shift in the public opinion in Germany, many people now accept that there’s a problem and that Germany comes to a situation where we are at the edge of what we can bear, yes. 

SS: But on the other hand we also see locals in Germany welcoming refugees at the border and providing them with food, clothing, taking them in their homes - is that the kind of attitude that could actually help overcome the fear of refugees? 

MP: Yes, there are many people welcoming refugees, but this is… I mean, it’s nice to come to a country and see some people welcoming you, but it doesn’t help the situation in the long run. It doesn’t help finding a solution in this crisis, because welcoming… it helps in the first minutes, but it doesn’t help in the long run; and as I said before, one million people getting their families to Germany will change the country, and this is what even people from our government accused Angela Merkel for: they’ve said “She wants another country” - she wants to change this country, and that is something that many people now in Germany fear as well. 

SS: But also, one of the biggest fears is that these refugees, they will cause some animosity, because they won’t be able to integrate into society, creating problems, like you’ve said. How can a government prevent this from happening? 

MP: How can you prevent millions of people from bringing their culture, their Arab culture to their new home country? I don’t think there’s any way to prevent them from bringing their lifestyle to Germany, but I think we have to discuss, in Germany, if all those people really should have asylum in Germany. You have to know, that only about 1-2% of those who seek asylum in Germany in the end are accepted as asylum-seekers. So, in the end, if we have one million asylum-seekers, we are talking about 10-20 thousand people who will get the right of having asylum in Germany - and we’ll have to talk about all those others that came to Germany and how to deal with those people.

SS: European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said: “The EU has to tackle the refugee crisis because there’s no alternative”, insisting on the compulsory resettling of refugees across the EU. Like you’ve said earlier, Eastern European countries have so far rejected the idea - so, what happens if they don’t agree?

MP: Well, they won’t. Many Eastern European countries like Poland, for example, have already refused to take any more refugees, and I think everything that Mr. Junker has tried now didn’t work out. I don't think there’s a solution. The only possibility is to change politics in the way people can seek asylum in Europe. I think that the asylum-seekers should apply for asylum in their home countries...or at least near their home countries. I don’t believe they should come to Europe to apply for asylum, and we need to make sure that, especially, people from Balkans - we have hundreds of thousands of people from Balkan countries, that we declare those countries, in Balkans, we declare them “safe” countries so people from Balkan countries can’t apply for asylum in the EU.

SS: Like you’ve said, there’s also a slight religious problem between Europe as a whole and the refugees that are coming from the Middle East and Africa. Now, just recently, we’ve seen Charlie Hebdo come out with a new cover, actually making fun of the boy, who was drowned, the refugee boy, 3-year old boy Aylan - doesn’t that also incite religious hatred and animosity between the refugees and people who are welcoming them in Europe? 

MP: I mean, there’s no reason for hate and making fun of, especially, drowned children. This is an awful story, of course, but that is one reason why Alternative for Germany says that people should apply for asylum in their home country and not try to cross the sea - because we’ve seen tens of thousands drowning in the Mediterranean sea now, and we need to stop this. We need to stop giving them the impression that they can have a hope for coming to Europe and live there, just to have a better life. Asylum is for those people… we should give asylum to people who are real refugees, who flee because of political reasons, because of war, but not to those just coming for better lifestyle, and that is the responsibility of the European politicians to stop people from crossing the Mediterranean see just because of that reason.

SS: Your Chancellor, Angela Merkel has warned that migration could be even more dangerous for the future of the EU that the Eurozone crisis itself. However, the latter shows little sign of ripping apart the EU - is she being a little sensationalist about this?

MP: No… as you can see, in the Euro crisis, we’ve seen that every single country in the Eurozone has made up its own rules, not stick to those rules we once set up by the year 2000 - and what we see now is very similar. We see Germany not sticking to Dublin, causing lots of trouble all over Europe, and what we see now is that, especially the Eastern European countries, but also many Southern European countries, where the migrants come to Europe first, don’t stick to those rules - and if we experience this, not sticking to the European rules, everybody setting up its own, then, in fact, the European Union might only be...yes, it’s only facade. It’s nothing behind it anymore, because everybody sets up their own rules, and Europe is about rules, about common rules and if nobody sticks to them, it might end the European Union, yes - so she is perfectly right.

SS: Now, the refugee crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the common Euro crisis - the EU is dealing with a lot of crises lately. Could there be more to come?

MP: You never know. Crisis is something that happens, you can’t… nobody knows what will happen in the future, but those two crises, I think, is enough, and we’ve not found any solution for the Euro crisis since 2008, so we are dealing with it already for 7 years, and we are not even close to any kind of solution. Probably, I see, that we will experience the same thing with the refugee crisis, with migration. We know this problem for years now, we’ve seen it coming for years, and we’ve not even tried to find a solution. What happens now is not a long-term solution, but only dealing with problems in short-term way. That’s all what happens right now.

SS: Now, the Euro-commission is saying that Greece needs to understand it will not be saved at any cost. With all the efforts put into finding a solution to the debt crisis, realistically, it will be years before its even solved - how far should this go, or what price is too much for the EU?

MP: I don’t think it will be solved. If you look at history and the history of debt,  you’ve never seen any state paying back its debt. So, Greece will not pay back its debt, it has not happened before and it will not happen in the future, so we’re going to deal with this problem for ever and ever till Greece falls, and some day - it will, because the European, or the Euro taxpayers, some day, will be fed up. That’s what going to happen. The German taxpayers can’t pay the bill anymore - and that day may not be too far away.

SS: Now, I know that you strongly opposed the single currency, but there must be a reason why Germany is protecting it so strongly? 

MP: Yes, because in our government, in our German governments, we have Euro-fanatics. They started this grand experiment that nobody ever tried before, and they don’t want to tell the people that they were awfully wrong: they were awfully wrong from the very beginning, and that’s hard to tell the people, because people might get upset and get even more upset if you show them the bill to pay, and that will be trillions of Euro, that European taxpayers will have to pay for the debt crisis in the end.

SS: Marcus, thank you very much for this interview. We were talking to Marcus Pretzell, member of the European parliament, regional leader of the Alternative for Germany party, talking about the many crises challenging the structural integrity of the EU. That’s it for this edition of Sophie&Co, I will see you next time.