Tuesday 3 July, 2018 Update: Merkel On A Highwire


Another day, another dent in Germany’s frail governing coalition. With her back against the wall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reversed her open-door migrant policy in order to rescue her coalition from dissolving permanently. She reached the compromise with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer after he threatened to resign, a move that would have likely splintered Merkel’s coalition for good. The agreement Merkel hammered out at the EU summit in Brussels last week did not satisfy Seehofer. He continued to press ahead with his threat to resign, pushing Merkel to the brink. When all is said and done, it could be that Seehofer may have overplayed his hand. Whether or not that is the case, it is clear that his political rebellion exposed the increasingly vulnerable chancellor to future attacks. There is blood in the water in Berlin.

The compromise agreed to by Seehofer and Merkel revolves around opening transit centers on the German-Austrian border. Migrants seeking to enter Germany will be held there until a decision is reached on their asylum status. If they are ultimately denied entry, they will be deported to the EU nation they originally registered in.

Before the compromise deal becomes reality, Merkel has to convince the Social Democrats (SPD) to support it. This will not be easy. SPD chairwoman Andrea Nahles did welcome the deal, though she also stated that her party members have a number of questions on the details. At the peak of the European Migrant Crisis in 2015-16, SPD rejected the notion of transit centers on the border. Granted, the domestic political situation is strikingly different now, however, this time around there could still be some significant resistance to the idea of transit centers from SPD members.

In short, Merkel is not out of the woods yet. Her precarious balancing act atop a highwire has worked so far. Yet the longer it goes on, the chances that a single misstep will bring the coalition, and Merkel down, increase dramatically with each passing day.

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