If you'd listened to the bookmakers and a number of pundits, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the clear favorite to win the Nobel Peace Prize. While Merkel was nominated due to her work mediating the conflict in Ukraine, many attributed her potential win to the notably open rhetoric and policy Germany has shown to the refugees over the past year – often in contrast to its neighbors.
Merkel did not win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, however: Instead, it was awarded to an alliance of four Tunisian civil society groups. And for Merkel's critics, this is undoubtedly good news.
On Twitter, Danish politician Soeren Espersen described his "jubilation" that Merkel didn't win, adding that "she has thrown Europe into one of the largest migration disasters in modern times.”
Espersen is a member of the Danish People’s Party (DF), a right-wing party that offers vital political support for Denmark's one-party minority government. The DF has repeatedly supported harsher measures for refugees and migrants: After becoming the second-largest party in the country after elections in June, DF pushed for border controls with Germany and the rest of Europe to be reinstated.
Before the prize had been announced, a number of other critics of Merkel's open stance on refugees had condemned the possibility of the German leader winning.
Despite this criticism of Merkel's immigration policy, it seems unlikely that an openness to refugees cost her the Nobel. A more likely explanation would be that the widespread controversy surrounding Germany's role in Greece's economic crisis proved a sticking point for many judges.
It's also possible that the judges felt Germany's policy on refugees was shifting – it's worth noting that Merkel's approval ratings among Germans have dropped recently. "You really need to look in the next couple of years or so to judge whether her policies are worth it or not,” Gerard Bökenkamp, head of the Berlin office of think tank Open Europe, told the German newspaper Handelsblatt. “I personally don’t think that her policies will stay the same one year from now.”
Writing in Politico Europe, German journalist Konstantin Richter expressed thanks that Merkel didn't win, though his reasoning was far different than Espersen or other critics. "In the recent past, the Norwegian Nobel committee has shown that it wants to use the prize as an instrument for political change," Richter wrote. "Maybe this time, they sensed that awarding 8 million Swedish krona to the German chancellor would not have done her any good."
Merkel's office has dismissed any disappointment in not winning the prize. Her spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, told the Guardian that she was happy "about a very good decision." The award of the prize to the Tunisian civil society groups was “the deserved reward for working on democracy, for sticking to the idea that a people that has shaken off dictatorship deserves something better than a new dictatorship," Seibert said.
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