Merkel gets two-week deadline to negotiate EU migration policy

A handout photo made available by Chigi Palace Press Office shows Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (R) with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting in Berlin, Germany, 18 June 2018. EPA-EFE/CHIGI PALACE PRESS OFFICE/FILIPP HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES/NO ARCHIVES

Merkel gets two-week deadline to negotiate EU migration policy


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The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was given two weeks political breathing space on Monday, to broker an EU-wide migration deal by the summit in Brussels (June 28-29).

The compromise

The Chancellor’s junior coalition partner – the Christian Social Union (CSU) – want immediate immigration curbs. The Chancellor will attempt to secure a multilateral solution before the leader of the CSU and Minister of Interior, Horst Seehofer, proceeds with his own national “master plan” on migration.

In his own press conference in Munich on Monday, Seehofer said that the Chancellor accepted “62 and a half” of his 63-point master plan.

Seehofer wished the Chancellor “much luck” in her endeavour to secure an EU-wide agreement. In the meantime, the programme of migrant repatriation will be intensified. Seehofer has openly speculated on the idea of reinstating border controls, following on the footsteps of neighbouring Austria. That is a red line for the Chancellor and could mean the two parties end their alliance.

More than one 1,6 million refugees and economic migrants have reached Germany since 2014.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party have not talked openly about what happens when the two weeks deadline elapses. Facing state elections in October, Bavarians are keen to regiment their powerbase vis-à-vis the surging far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Ending the Italian confrontation

Last week Horst Seehofer circumvented his government to call his Italian counterpart, Matteo Salvini and called him to express solidarity over the Aquarius incident and invite him in Berlin for consultations.

Aquarius is an NGO ship that was carrying 600 migrants rescued at sea, who were denied docking in Italy. The migrants were eventually ferried to Spain and France, but not before a major row between President Emmanuel Macron and Matteo Salvini.

Chancellor Merkel followed through on Monday, meeting with the new Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte and committing to the common objective of disrupting the flow of refugees. Both leaders agreed on the need to bolster the ranks of Frontex and work with international organizations in North Africa and the Middle East.

Germany, Italy and a number of other EU member states want asylum applications to be processed outside the EU. This policy could be legally challenged. On the one hand, the German constitution guarantees the right to asylum; on the other, the Dublin convention stipulates that every application must be checked on its own merit.

Italy, like Germany, wants EU member states to take up a share of the refugee population that enters Italy, Greece and Spain. “The Italian borders are European borders,” Conte said.

Enter Trump

In the meantime, US President Donald Trump criticized the German government on Monday, noting that eh ruling coalition looks “tenuous”.

In yet another Tweet, President Trump contrasted the German government’s policy to his own zero-tolerance approach.

The contrast comes against the introduction of a new controversial policy in the United States in which the government separates children from families of illegal migrants passing the border with Mexico. Migrant children are then reportedly homed in former supermarkets and warehouses. 2,000 children have already been separated from their families, Reuters reports.

President Trump also said that the US will not “on his watch” become a “refugee holding facility.”

Finally, President Donald Trump accused immigrants in Europe of “violently” changing local culture, which he would not allow happen in the United States.

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