The visit of the German Bundestag Speaker, Prof. Dr Norbert Lammert, this weekend includes a tour of the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
This is not usually on VIP tour itineraries.
But the symbolism could not be clearer.
Germany is desperate to try and reduce the pressure that the huge numbers of Syrian refugees have placed on the country. Last year the country accepted around one million refugees; almost half from Syria.
That pressure is made more intense by the rapid rise of the nationalist, anti-refugee Alternative for Germany party which holds seats in 10 of the country’s 16 state parliaments and is on track to enter the Federal Parliament at the elections next year.
The party poses a real threat to the the country’s two main political parties, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.
POLITIK understands that refugees will be high on the talking points’ list for the Speaker when he meets the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Murray McCully on Wednesday
The Germans will do so against an Amnesty International proposal that compares New Zealand’s current total of 250 Syrian refugees with similar sized countries like Ireland (750 Syrians) and Lebanon (1.1 million Syrians).
On that basis Amnesty NZ’s Executive Director, Grant Bayldon argues that New Zealand should be aiming to settle approximately 3400 refugees as an immediate, one-off emergency intake, to be processed over the next two years.
“This should be in addition to our annual refugee quota,” he said.
That’s the kind of argument that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister Murray McCully might expect to hear from the Speaker when they meet.
He is the most senior German politician to visit New Zealand since the visit by Angela Merkel in 2014.
New Zealand may not be in a position to ignore any request he might make.
The Prime Minister clearly prioritises the relationship with Germany, particularly its Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
He has another meeting with her planned for early next year when he attends the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland.
The point of this warming of relations is tied to New Zealand’s hope that it can develop a free trade agreement with the European Union.
The need for that has been made more urgent by the British decision to leave the EU.
Britain has been New Zealand’s “door” into Europe however that is now closing.
Brexit also means that the European Union is now going to be preoccupied with negotiating the British exit.
At the same time, the EU has a long list of uncompleted free trade agreements – most notably one with Canada and another with the United States.
But a whole range of countries including Japan, four Asean states, Argentina and other South American countries and the Gulf Co-operation Council have all begun free trade talks with the EU.
Back in June McCully acknowledged that Europe would be distracted in having to renegotiate its relationship with Britain and that could cause some delay in the EU-NZ free trade process, which was always going to take some time.
New Zealand’s political lever (Britain) has now gone so it is going to need to find new ones which is why McCully has been talking about deepening New Zealand’s relationship with some European countries.
And that is why he and Key may have to listen receptively to any suggestion from Germany that it increase the refugee intake.