Merkel called her Interior Minister’s bluff aka Germany is more stable than people think

Real quick here on Germany and the refugee crisis since I wrote this up last week.

On the internal politics, I was saying that Horst Seehofer, the head of the CSU, Chancellor Merkel’s Bavarian partner, was concerned about losing votes on the right. But, at the same time, one could argue that his challenging Merkel and offering to resign was an attempt to keep the coalition intact rather than blow it up. Just because he stepped down wouldn’t mean the CDU and CSU couldn’t remain partners. It would just mean Seehofer would no longer be around.

German stability?

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So Seehofer’s bluff wasn’t credible. Even so, Germany looks somewhat unstable here. Nevertheless, Germany is still more stable than people think.

The fact that we have a Grand Coalition and have had one for more than five years, tells you that. Merkel has ruled via Grand Coalition in all but four years of her Chancellorship. That’s like having a US President in office for 13 years, 9 of which he had a cabinet filled with both Democrats and Republicans. It’s unthinkable.

The problem is that Merkel has moved to or been pushed to the left during that time. After all, she is in a coalition with Social Democrats. And that has left the flank open on the right against her party and the CSU as well as on the left against the SPD. SO this Grand Coalition arrangement is looking increasingly weak and vulnerable. That’s why the Seehofer bluff was a threat.

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Refugee Compromise

Merkel has agreed to tighten controls at Germany’s border with Austria in order to prevent people who have already applied for asylum in other EU countries from entering Germany. And “transit centers” will be set up to hold the refugees until they can be sent back to where they came from.

First of all, this does nothing regarding the existing 1 million refugees that have come in the last few years. And secondly, implementation is likely to difficult. Moreover, Austrian now says it is preparing its own measures on its southern border with Italy and Slovenia. So, in effect, this compromise, does indeed begin a minor move away from the open borders arrangement put into place via the Schengen Agreement.

Punting and not scoring

I don’t think this deal will work over the long-term. It’s a punt for the short-term. It gets rid of the Seehofer threat. But it doesn’t do much else to defuse the politics of this issue.

Greece, Italy and almost all of eastern Europe are now anti-immigrant. You can see that in the chart from the tweet below:

As long as the EU remains vastly richer than countries in North and central Africa, there will be a flow of migrants to the EU. And Italy and Greece will get the lion’s share of those migrants, fuelling anti-immigrant politics. With Eastern Europe very much against taking these immigrants on, there is no political solution available. This issue will come back in due course.

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