Abstract: The response to the so‐called refugee crisis of 2015 in the European Union was haphazard and inconsistent with the stated mission of solidarity. This article situates the EU’s response and its Common European Asylum System (CEAS) as defensive integration producing the lowest common denominator policies. It argues that the rise of right‐wing populism redefines solidarity in narrow and exclusionary terms, in contrast to the inclusive and global solidarity espoused by the EU. Drawing on Germany as a case study of how domestic populist pressures also rise to the European level, the article juxtaposes the demise of the EU’s temporary relocation system (an attempt at internal inclusive solidarity) and the success of the EU–Turkey deal (an attempt at externalization and risk avoidance), both initiatives led by Germany. Solidarity efforts championed by Germany were quickly stymied by (Central Eastern European) member states that not only rejected efforts at temporary solutions but blocked efforts to develop permanent mechanisms and a substantive CEAS reform.
Keywords: asylum; European Union; Germany; populism; solidarity