Just last autumn, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart, Werner Faymann, stood together as champions for Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Europe. Both have since backpedaled, and now Faymann has resigned because of pressure within his own party to open the way to a possible coalition with the anti-immigrant Freedom Party. Merkel ought to be mindful of his fate: Inconsistency on matters of principle can be costly.

Until the European Union's deal with Turkey, which effectively cut off the Balkan route for the refugees and others who joined them on their flight, Austria was the final country aspiring immigrants passed through on their way to Germany, where Merkel would, they thought, welcome them. It was a transit country, but some of the newcomers decided to stick around — with 88,151 asylum applications filed, more than at any time in recent memory.

Germany, of course, accepted 442,000 first-time asylum applications last year, and many more refugees — about 1.1 million — actually came in, so the migration offices are still besieged and swamped. But Germany is much bigger than Austria. Each added more than 1 percent to their populations.