Merkel's Immigration Deal Clash Austria and her Coalition Partners
Germans majority are unhappy with the agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies to set up Special Transit Zones at the border with Austria to hold the migrants already registered in other EU countries and then sent them back to the countries where they had registered first.
The migrant policy deal which is supposed to save the German government got a skeptical reception today from Social Democrat coalition partners, although the European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker responded positively to the deal saying in a news conference, “I have not studied it in detail but at first glance - and I have asked the legal services to look at it - it seems to me to be in line with the law.”
Austria fearing that tighter border controls by its northern neighbor could raise the number of migrants on its own soil said “is prepared in particular to take measures for the protection of our southern borders if Berlin went ahead with the transit zones.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in a joint statement with two far-right cabinet members asked Berlin to clarify its stance, “Should this agreement become the German government’s position, we see that as prompting us to take action to prevent negative consequences for Austria and its population.”
In the first five months of this year, roughly 4,600 “unauthorized entries” were recorded at Germany’s border with Austria, according to the German police. Of those, 2,450 were sent back to Austria.
However the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, of the Bavarian party, presented the deal as a victory. It is unclear, however, what effect it will have as in many cases bilateral accords for migrants’ return already exist and are implemented.
While the Social Democrat leader Andrea Nahles said the plan was worthless without bilateral deals with countries such as Italy and Austria.
“We have many open questions,” said Nahles, whose lawmakers discussed the deal on Tuesday. Securing the consent of other EU countries was crucial, she said, adding: “That’s why I consider the deal for now as an uncovered cheque.”
Justice Minister Katarina Barley, a fellow Social Democrat, also struck a critical tone. “This so-called agreement leaves more questions open than it answers.”
However, there seems to be little appetite among Social Democrats leaders to oppose the plan this time and trigger another crisis.
Some Social Democrats accuse the CSU of wanting to appear tough on immigration before a regional election in Bavaria in October where the conservatives are expected to lose voters to the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany.
About 68,000 people applied for asylum in Germany in the first five months of this year, compared with a record of 745,500 in the whole of 2016. About 18,000 had already applied for asylum in another EU country.