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Merkel Survives, With a Huge Concession

German leader agrees to tough border policies to stay in power
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2018 7:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – Germany's Angela Merkel has struck a deal to remain in power, at least for now. Merkel, long seen as a champion of the rights of immigrants to move freely within the European Union, agreed to toughen border policies to end a revolt from within her own governing coalition, reports the BBC. The big concession is that Merkel agreed to set up "transit centers" on the German-Austria border and make it easier to turn some immigrants away. The "transit centers" are essentially "migrant camps," reports the New York Times, which sees the Merkel deal as a "spectacular turnabout" on her part. Details:

  • Little choice: Merkel's own conservative interior minister, Horst Seehofer, forced Merkel into the move by threatening to resign and bring down her government. The two emerged with the deal late Monday after about five hours of talks, reports the AP. Seehofer leads the Christian Social Union, the sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

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  • Like airports: Under the deal, asylum seekers would be kept in the border camps while their cases are reviewed. The camps would be like areas in international airports—migrants would be on German soil, but not legally in the country, thus making it easier to deport them, explains the Guardian. Those found to have applied for asylum elsewhere in Europe would not be allowed in. They would be sent back to the countries where they applied, or, failing that, turned back into Austria.
  • Domino effect: Lots of questions about the logistics remain to be answered, and Austria already has demanded clarification and suggested that it might have to tighten its own borders as a result. Other nations may do the same. “Austria is prepared for any kind of scenario and we will react accordingly, particularly at our southern borders,” wrote Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, reports the Wall Street Journal. All this threatens the EU's border-free principle known as "schengen," reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Another hurdle: Merkel still must convince the third party in her coalition, the center-left Social Democrats, to get on board, and it's not a sure thing. Leader Andrea Nahles objects to the "transit centers" and says both Austria and Italy must be fully on board with any deal.
  • Numbers, crime: Far fewer asylum-seekers are showing up at the German border than did a few years ago, but assimilating the million or so who have arrived since 2015 has eroded support for Merkel, especially among conservatives, notes the Times. Despite assertions to the contrary on the right, crime in Germany is at a 25-year low, but some high-profile violent crimes have dominated headlines.
  • A primer: The Washington Post has a primer on the complicated politics within Germany, and how all this is playing out ahead of elections in October. A right-wing populist party called AfD (Alternative for Germany) is now riding high and poised for a strong finish in the fall.
(Read more Angela Merkel stories.)

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