Having taken in a million refugees in 2015 and struck a deal with Turkey to cut Mediterranean arrivals a year later, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the current host of the EU presidency, is the driving force behind the new migration pact.
However, across Germany’s political spectrum, reactions were rather mixed with regard to the new proposal. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) welcomed the pact, calling it “a good basis for further discussions,” but also encouraged other EU member states “not to take cover as a reflex,” and instead work towards a joint concept. While the centre-left parties claim it does not go far enough, Germany’s far right is hoping for a surge in polls.
“The weak point of the Commission proposal is that many people in camps on the external borders will continue to suffer,” said Green MEP Erik Marquardt.
Meanwhile, Social Democrat MEP Katharina Barley criticised that “the main responsibility and thus the main burden remains with the external border states, for example Greece, but also Italy, Malta, Spain.” Barley is also skeptical that the new plans to provide more aid will work.
But in a sign of the changing mood, German mayors offered this month to take in refugees after an overcrowded camp on the Greek island of Lesbos burnt to the ground.
After opening Germany’s doors to Syrian refugees back in 2015, she suffered electoral setbacks as the far right surged on anti-immigration sentiment.
Although the anti-immigration far-right Alternative for Germany party is drifting lower in opinion polls, party officials are likely to use the pact as new ammunition for next year’s electoral campaign.