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16/07/2018

German government survives for now, but the future of Schengen remains in question

Seehofer stays as Interior Minister. Angela Merkel reaches a deal on asylum-seekers to keep her government together, but the agreement does not so much resolve the underlying dispute, as displace it. Merkel vs SeehoferMerkel vs Seehofer

Berlin, Jul. 3.– At points in recent days, any compromise between Angela Merkel and the Christian Social Union (CSU), the conservative Bavarian sister party to her Christian Democrats (CDU), seemed impossible. Perhaps with an eye to her legacy as a guardian of the multilateral international order, the chancellor insisted that unilateral German action to turn back asylum-seekers registered in other EU states could trigger a wave of such actions from other countries, imperilling Europe’s notionally border-free Schengen zone. Horst Seehofer, the CSU interior minister, insisted that only this measure could prevent such immigrants from becoming Germany’s responsibility. Room for a deal between these two positions seemed scarce.

But last night they found it. Having been urged to find common ground at a meeting of MPs from the two parties on Monday afternoon, and by Wolfgang Schäuble, the Bundestag president, former finance minister and something of a broker between the two sides, Mrs Merkel and Mr Seehofer sat down together, flanked by allies, at around 5pm.

More than five hours later a single-page agreement materialised, containing three brief points. Mrs Merkel declared it a “really good compromise” and Mr Seehofer withdrew his threat, issued the night before, to resign from her cabinet. With that the crisis that at moments had threatened to propel the CSU out of Germany’s governing coalition (perhaps even bringing down Mrs Merkel in the process) seems to have been defused.

But has it? The deal agreed last night goes a long way towards Mr Seehofer’s position. There will be a new regime on the German-Austrian border—the main entry point to Germany for asylum-seekers travelling from southern Europe—“making sure that asylum-seekers for whose asylum procedures other EU states are responsible are prevented from entering the country”. There will be transit centres, reportedly at or close to German borders, at which asylum-seekers will be held and from which rejected asylum-seekers will be promptly deported to their countries of arrival ...

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