Strangers like us
The decision to leave the borders open, the influx of more than one million people to Germany and the resulting migration crisis in late 2015 and early 2016 were formative experiences for the current political class in Germany and have exacerbated the country’s social and political crisis. The latent, protracted dispute about the character of Germany as a migration state resurfaced with renewed force and will divide the German public for many years to come, since Germans’ sense of national identity lies at the centre of the dispute.
German decision makers already know that one of the key consequences of the migration crisis is that they need to make the entire German public realise that Germany has irrevocably become a migration state. A debate is still ongoing about what particular form the German version of such a state should assume and how citizenship should be defined. The divisions in this dispute run across the political divide and different social strata, both within the electorate and among politicians. The only common view seems to be that migration and integration constitute a challenge to maintaining the status quo, which has been relatively favourable for Germany and its people. The realisation is now dawning that the integration of migrants will only be successful if Germans have no complexes when approaching their national identity, because it is not possible to integrate with a nation that constantly questions it.