Adding insult to injury, one day after Germany’s historic loss to Mexico (which resulted in a man-made earthquake in USA’s southern neighbor), Europe’s most important country is facing the “Destiny Day” to a political crisis like no other in its recent history.
For almost 13 years as chancellor, Handeslblatt writes this morning, Angela Merkel managed to outmaneuver all rivals, schemers and plotters.
“But her time could finally be up.”
Two of her Christian-Democratic predecessors, Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard, fell from power not after losing the electorate, but after losing the support of their own parliamentary bloc. That may now be Merkel’s fate, too.
Today, the top brass of her party, the CDU, and its Bavarian frenemies, the CSU, are meeting separately in Berlin and Munich, to agree on a common course about the coming days and weeks, however chances of a deal appear increasingly remote: according to Handelsblatt, Horst Seehofer, the CSU’s boss, federal interior minister and perennial Merkel gadfly, told one newspaper that he “can’t work with that woman anymore.”
The issue is, as it has been since the crisis of 2015, refugees.
If Seehofer, acting as interior minister, really starts turning back asylum seekers at the border, this will count as open insubordination to Merkel. She would have to fire him. That would probably lead to a break between the CDU and CSU, which would cost their governing coalition with the Social Democrats its parliamentary majority.
Merkel would step down or be forced out.
Which is why, on Sunday Germany’s Bild said that Monday is “destiny day for Angela Merkel. For the government.”
As we discussed previously, Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal stance that allowed a million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015. Heading into Monday, the interior minister wanted to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been registered in another EU country, often their first port of call, Italy or Greece, a proposal which however is a non-starter with both Italy and Greece.
But Merkel is firmly opposed, warning that it would leave countries at the EU’s geographic southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the June 28-29 EU summit.
It is hardly a secret that popular misgivings over the massive migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power. In Germany, voters handed Merkel her poorest score in September’s elections while giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD. The latest poll released this morning did not help: a Forsa poll commissioned by RTL and ntv, showed that in the wake of the refugee debate, German CDU/CSU lost 4% points, as voter support for CDU/CSU slipped to 30%, the lowest since the federal elections.
- CSU in Bavaria falls to 36%
- Coalition partner SPD down 2 ppts to 16%
- AfD at 15%
- Greens at 14%; FDP at 10%; Left party at 9%; Other parties in total 6%
Several high profile crimes by migrants, including the 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker as well as the recent rape-murder of a teenage girl allegedly by an Iraqi, have also helped to fuel anger. The case of a German teenager who was believed to have been stabbed to death in a supermarket by her Afghan asylum seeker boyfriend is due to be heard in court on Monday. With an eye on October’s Bavaria state election, the CSU is anxious to assure voters that it has a roadmap to curb the migrant influx.
As such, Seehofer’s “masterplan” on immigration was meant to be the showpiece of the CSU’s tough stance against new arrivals.
But the interior minister was forced to cancel a planned presentation of his vision after Merkel disagreed with his proposal to turn some asylum seekers away at the borders, sparking last week’s dramatic escalation of discord within the conservative bloc. For all the noise, the CSU knows that there is more at stake.
On Sunday, Seehofer struck a more conciliatory tone when he told Bild that “it is not in the CSU’s interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-CSU union or to break up the coalition” adding that “we just want to finally have a sustainable solution to send refugees back to the borders.”
Which brings us to Monday, when Seehofer’s CSU met on Monday to decide which course to take. As the Local de reported, he had the nuclear option of seeking approval to shut Germany’s borders immediately in defiance of Merkel, or the less aggressive choice of giving her an ultimatum of two weeks to sort out a deal with other EU nations.
Signalling that he is leaning towards the latter option, Seehofer wrote in a column in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “it is essential that the EU summit takes a decision at the end of June. “The situation is serious but still solvable,” he wrote. Of course, whichever option he chooses, the ball will land in Merkel’s court.
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Then, moments ago, DPA reported that Seehofer indeed gave Merkel a two week ultimatum until the end of June to agree Europe-wide migration rules. After the deadline, if Merkel is unable to get EU countries to approve a solution within the deadline, comprehensive refusals of migrants at borders will begin, which will ultimately begin a chain reaction which will likely end will the collapse of Merkel’s government, and the end of her political career.
To be sure, having been given a two-week ultimatum, Merkel now faces the Herculean challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.
Good luck with that: central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system that has essentially floundered. A populist-far right government in place in Italy, as well as the conservative-far right in power in neighbouring Austria, have also taken an uncompromising stance on immigration.
Meanwhile, despite howls of protests from aid groups and even the United Nations, Rome has banned rescue vessels carrying migrants from docking.
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What are the next immediate catalysts? Merkel’s talks on Monday evening with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte could prove crucial, if she is to have any chance of finding concordance in Brussels. Then, on Tuesday, Merkel will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Berlin is also reportedly preparing to call a meeting between Merkel and the leaders of several EU frontline nations in the migrant crisis ahead of the Brussels summit.
Underlining the unenviable task ahead for Merkel, Welt daily said “it would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU summit.”
Which is why, one month from today, Germany may be faced with a summer of discontent: not only does it now look increasingly unlikely that the German team will not play in the July 15 World Cup final (if its game against Mexico was any indication of what to expect), but it is increasingly likely that Angela Merkel will be absent at the final game as well.
In other news, we can’t wait until this latest European scandal resulting from Merkel’s own “progressive” politics and liberal vision, in no small part influenced by George Soros and his Open Society ideals, is blamed on Putin too.