Interview: Christoph von Marschall, Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, Der Tagesspiegel

Christoph von Marschall

Christoph von Marschall

By Rachel Richter, Communications Manager, Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta

After listening to a very interesting and captivating discussion on Tuesday evening between German journalist Christoph von Marschall and French journalist Gallagher Fenwick from France 24 at our Elysée Treaty Celebration, I was lucky enough to be able to sit down and chat to Christoph the following day to talk about some of the issues raised during the discussion.

Dr. von Marschall is the Chief Diplomatic Correspondent at the German daily ‘Der Tagesspiegel’ published in Berlin and prior to that spent 8 years as the Washington Bureau Chief and White House Correspondent. He’s also published several books on Barack Obama and the differences in political culture between Germany and the United States.

The main focus of our chat was a subject that is at the top of many news agendas at the moment – the refugee crisis in Europe. Back in August last year, Germany opened its arms to an influx of refugees from Middle Eastern countries like war-torn Syria. By the end of the year, one million migrants had made their way onto German soil with the German people welcoming them with smiles, banners and flags. However, this positive mindset is slowly changing according to Dr. von Marschall:

“I am extremely proud of how my country reacted to the refugee crisis and its open-door policy, along with the volunteers that welcomed the migrants and helped them to settle into life in Germany but there is a point when it becomes too much.”

We went on to talk in more detail about public opinion in Germany and if it still remains upbeat and welcoming 6 months after the migrants started to arrive, his answer: that it is changing:

“The mood is starting to shift, especially after the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne.”

Dr. von Marschall is referring to a string of sex attacks that happened in the city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve. 90 complaints were filed, it’s thought a crowd of 1,000 men gathered in the city’s main square with the city’s police chief Wolfgang Albers saying they gave the appearance of being “Arab or North African” in background.

“The goodwill approach turned to one of difficulty,” said Dr. von Marschall, “volunteers would find themselves receiving phone calls from migrants asking for help in the middle of the night, then New Year’s Eve happened and the mood started to change even more.”

This is turn has made reporting on the crisis more difficult for journalists. Dr. von Marschall says he tries to be as objective as possible but that can be tough, he also says that since Cologne, when media outlets in Germany were slow to report on the incidents, he’s seen an increase in negative reporting about the issue.

I asked him if he thinks there will be a point when Chancellor Merkel will say, ‘that’s it, Germany cannot take anymore migrants’ and effectively close the borders:

“I don’t think she will ever stand up in public and say the country cannot accept any more refugees. I’ve always thought Merkel was pragmatic, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with her saying we’ve done what we can, we haven’t made any mistakes in welcoming the migrants but we’re simply overwhelmed by the numbers, adding that we still want to help, but we need some sort of European solution to help us out, maybe we should suggest taking only 50 per cent of the migrants.”

We went on to talk about possible solutions for the crisis, Dr. von Marschall told me that he believes Germany will have to change the way it is handling the situation and its approach to the migrants still streaming into the country:

“In 2 months I think we’ll see a change in course, passport controls will be reintroduced at the borders to try to limit the number of migrants entering the country, cutting down the numbers is a step towards solving the problem. Maybe we have to limit it to 300 or 400 thousand per year.”

Finally, he talked about a more structured immigration system, but knows that this cannot be instantly implemented:

“Yes we need to address our demographic problem in Germany and we need to increase immigration but refugees are not the answer. We need a policy to filter migrants based on their skills and if they don’t fit into the skillset we are looking for, maybe they are not allowed into the country.”

Unfortunately for me, Dr. von Marschall then had to go back to his hotel to check out before catching a flight back to Germany, only to return to the States at the weekend to cover the Iowa caucus vote – I definitely could have spent a lot more time chatting to him and listening to his fascinating views and opinions.

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Posted on January 28, 2016, in What's Happened? and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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