A fateful week for the Chancellor

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to media as she arrives at the informal meeting on migration and asylum issues in Brussels, Belgium, 24 June 2018. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presumably last term in office appears to be by far the hardest of her career. EURACTIV Germany looks at the crucial week ahead.

After 100 days in office, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political agenda is overshadowed in the media by increasingly grotesque appearances by the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) and his party colleagues. In Brussels, the Italians and the Visegrad states are giving her a hard time with regard to the EU’s migration policy, which is now also highly polarised in Germany itself.

Domestically, the direction of government work is clearly defined in the coalition agreement: there is meant to be a “new departure for Europe”, more money, more responsibility – and finally, reforms.

The aim of the German roadmap is also to have a “solidarity division of responsibility in the EU” in migration policy,  which questions Merkel’s certitude phrase “We can do this” even outside Germany.

Even a mini-summit convened specifically on Sunday in Brussels could not change that. Its outcome gave a first taste of the “destiny week” for the German Chancellor, already announced in German media.

Sunday, June 24 – no overall solution in sight for migration problem

Four hours of mini-summit with 16 heads of state and government of the EU – without Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, who nevertheless made a statement on European migration policy with their absence.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gets even more visible in his Ten-Point-Plan, which aims to “overcome” the Dublin agreement. It is precisely the rule that German Interior Minister Seehofer wants to use as the basis for a last-resort national solo run and, on its basis, wants to reject refugees registered in other EU states at the German border.

Merkel’s plan to prepare a solution for the EU summit with the European partners did not materialise on Sunday. Without Italy, there is no solution for Merkel’s plan of bilateral repatriation agreements, and without any tangible European offer for Seehofer even more anger in the coalition.

Conte and Macron compare notes on migration at mini-summit

Sixteen EU heads of state and government held an emergency summit in Brussels on Sunday (24 June) to discuss migration – a crisis with a destructive potential for the EU. No results were announced, but sources said the discussions had largely revolved around a proposal by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Monday, June 25 – CDU group meeting

What’s next – with the European asylum policy and the German interior minister from the little sister party CSU? Especially for the latter question, Merkel urgently needs a tactic that is approved by the party praesidium.

Because if Seehofer really closes the borders, Merkel would have to dismiss him. No one can want that – not even Seehofer. After all, the governing coalition’s survival is at stake. Should the CSU exit, a CDU/SPD government loses its majority. And one more reason that Merkel has to ensure the support of her faction.

Tuesday, June 26 – meeting of the CDU Group and the Coalition Committee

Merkel will not come up with much new information during the meeting of the CDU Group on a European solution to the settlement of the EU internal migration dispute. The asylum dispute between the CDU and the CSU will therefore continue that day. The coalition partner SPD has already positioned itself in advance.

“The escalation of men’s wars in the CSU makes me stunned,” SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil and SPD party leader Andrea Nahles made clear in a comment in the “Die Welt” (Monday edition) that German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is “a danger to Europe”. “For weeks, CDU and CSU have mutually crippled Germany and half of Europe,” said Nahles.

Tensions build ahead of hastily prepared migration meeting

Jean-Claude Juncker’s invitation to a handful of EU leaders for an informal mini-summit on Sunday (27 June) to discuss migration and asylum appears to have raised more issues than the meeting can solve.

Another topic in the evening will be the European political agreements between Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Seehofer accuses the Chancellor of not having informed him about it.

Thursday and Friday, 28-29 June – EU agenda on the “most urgent issues”

On Thursday morning, Merkel will hold a government session in the Bundestag about the EU summit in Brussels starting in the afternoon.

EU leaders will meet for two days to address “the most urgent issues”, including migration, security and defence, jobs, growth and competitiveness, innovation and digital Europe, the long-term EU budget (MFF) as well as external relations. In addition, advice on the Brexit negotiations in the EU27 format and on the eurozone in the Euro Summit format.

Sunday, July 1 –  review by the CDU leadership

What can Merkel specifically achieve in Brussels? This issue could be decisive for the coalition’s survival. And for Europe, to see to what extent Germany will remain the predictable and reliable partner.

The Chancellor wants to have the Brussels results be known without concrete domestic consequences – or in Merkel’s words “open to the word”. In no case should there be an “automatism” that orders immediate rejection at the border if it failed in Brussels. Whether Seehofer sees this the same way, it is in any case “open”.

The end of this week will certainly not bring a political all-clear signal for Merkel. She will have to fend off common solutions from difficult partners with their own agenda at home and friendly solutions in Europe. That she succeeds is not only important for Germany.

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