By Anthony Faiola,
BERLIN — The rest of Europe may see a crisis as a record number of asylum seekers flood the continent from Syria and other pockets of conflict and poverty. But Germany — the region’s economic powerhouse — is also sensing a golden opportunity.
This fast-graying nation of 81 million is facing a demographic time bomb. With a morbidly low birthrate and a flat-lining population, hundreds of schools have already shuttered. Some neighborhoods, particularly in the increasingly vacant east, have become ghost towns. For Germans, it has raised a serious question: Who will build the Mercedes and Volkswagens of tomorrow?
Enter a record wave of migrants.
Offering some of the most generous terms of asylum, Germany has become by far the biggest host in Europe for those fleeing dangerous and deteriorating conditions, with more than 800,000 applications expected this year alone. With no sign of the crisis abating as war rages in Syria and Iraq, German leaders are saying they “can cope” with 500,000 more newcomers a year for “several years.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is preparing her public for a period of transformation that may alter the very definition of what it means to be a German. Some leaders in the region are sounding the alarm over the threat to national identities posed by the mostly Muslim newcomers. But Merkel is cajoling Germans to embrace a new vision of their country that, in the future, may not be as white or Christian as it is today.
[E.U. leader proposes plan to redistribute migrants across continent]
In a now-viral video, Merkel last week addressed a woman who expressed fear that refugees would bring more Islamist terror. Merkel took a deep breath before replying, “Fear is a bad adviser.”
Addressing parliament Wednesday, she said of the newcomers: “They need help to learn German, and they should find a job quickly. Many of them will become new citizens of our country.” She added: “If we do it well, this will bring more opportunities than risks.”
Merkel isn’t the only one being pragmatic, with industrial leaders here heralding the flood of working-age migrants. Some German universities are opening their doors to allow refugees to audit classes for free. The government is offering “welcome classes” teaching German to migrant children and adults.
Germany is rolling out the …Read More
The refugee crisis could actually be a boon for Germany – Washington Post
By Anthony Faiola,