Two Weeks for Merkel: What’s in Store for the Chancellor and the Migrants

Photo: Wikimedia commons
Photo: Wikimedia commons

The chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, held a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron during which they discussed potential ways to solve the EU migration crisis. This meeting took place against the background of a deep internal political crisis in the Bundesrepublik: the presidium of the Bavarian CSU party, which is led by foreign minister Horst Seehofer, has given chancellor Merkel two weeks to solve the problem of illegal migration, that is to say, until 28 June, when an EU summit will be held. 


Merkel held a meeting with the CSU leader in Berlin, during which a project to create a document was discussed. According to the media, the negotiations ended without any result. 

Terms and conditions

The conflict between the chancellor and the leader of the German conservatives flared up because of a new concept in migration policy:  the CSU leader demands that it be unilaterally applied, while Merkel planned to reach an accord with other European nations beforehand. 

However, Merkel did accept the ultimatum. If the problem of the migrant influx is not solved before the EU member state meeting, illegal refugees who were registered in other countries will be refused entry into Germany, and those illegal refugees who have already arrived in the country while being registered elsewhere will be deported. 

On 1 July, Merkel promised to inform the CDU leadership and presidium about the work she has done, after which she would “discuss it with the CSU”. 

Scenario 1: join the mainstream

Of course, Merkel is not planning to give in and hopes to avoid a governmental crisis. It is very noticeable how strongly the chancellor is “changing her colours on the fly”: Merkel, the defender of migrants, has gone so far as to begin praising Hungarian prime-minister Viktor Orban and has invited him to meet in Berlin. She has welcomed Hungary’s efforts in defending its external borders and declared on German television that “in a certain sense, they [the Hungarians] are doing this job [controlling immigration] for us”. 

While commenting on Merkel’s statements, prime-minister Orban declared in turn that the two countries could develop normal relations in the future, but only with the condition of Germany taking note of and accepting Hungarian interests in the area of migration. 

Thus, Merkel could (albeit temporarily) enter the populist mainstream and hold on for a little while longer. As we can see, Macron has also started to borrow right-wing rhetoric and has promised to harshen migration law. 

Scenario 2: the coalition collapses

However, more and more experts are leaning towards a situation in which disagreements between the “sister” parties (CDU and CSU) threaten to cause a governmental crisis. If Seehofer continues his course, that course could lead to the collapse of the coalition. Against this backdrop, the ratings of the “Alternative für Deutschland” continue to steadily rise, and a collapse would only give them more points. 

It is likely that the positions of individual politicians will also grow stronger: potentially that of the chairman of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, who has declared that he will be an intermediary in the conflict between the CDU and CSU on refugees and will attempt to ease disagreements between the parties. 

Seehofer’s plan

Seehofer’s assault is in many ways related to the coming autumn elections in Bavaria. Bavarians, disillusioned as they are by the CSU’s lacking toughness in the migrant question, would rather vote for “Alternative für Deutschland”, a party with the largest oppositional fraction in the Bundestage. The CSU’s task is to snatch away votes and change its rhetoric to be strongly anti-immigration. 

Seehofer is pushing his “general plan” for Germany and claims support from the CSU. The essence of this plan deals with migrants who are located in the Bundesrepublik while being registered in other EU countries, as well as refugees moving towards Germany. Seehofer has proposed the removal of the first group and barring entry to the second. 

Negotiations with Macron


During their meeting, Merkel and Macron faced a series of conflicts and did not reach agreement on every question. Despite this, they noted that they would reach greater agreement among the EU member states on the question of the migrant influx and also indicated a need to limit the influx of migrants. 

To be more precise, Merkel and Macron came out in favour for the creation of a European Migration Bureau, which would have the goal of unifying migration law in all EU member states. In particular, there are plans for procedures to provide shelter to refugees at the EU’s external borders. What is more, the parties proposed the creation of a “European border corps on the basis of the already existing Frontex”. 

Experts anticipate that the EU Security Council (the creation of which was recently proposed) will likely not only deal with questions of defence, but also with illegal migration. 

We must note, that the results of Macron and Merkel’s negotiations have partially had a bad effect on the latter’s ratings. For example, the plan to create a Eurozone budget was met with criticism in Germany: Bavarian prime-minister Markus Söder(CSU) came out against the plan, declaring that the country “does not need additional shadow budgets that will destabilise the already unstable situation in the country”. 


Thus, Merkel is becoming an unpopular and uncomfortable figure, that, if we take into account the growth in populist forces, will likely become the target of harsh criticism for its insufficient decisiveness. 

Merkel the supplicant and the impossibility of compromise


The most important change is that of the image of Merkel: from “Europe’s commander” to “supplicant”. 

The Frankfurter Rundschau notes that it will be impossible to reach another compromise: Italy and Greece are refusing refugees, and Poland and Hungary are not even planning to let them in. “For several years, the EU member states have been discussing a reform of the European immigration system without any result”, - the publication emphasises. 

It is possible that Merkel will try to reach an agreement with those few EU countries that can guarantee a smaller inflow of refugees into Germany; however, if she were to try this, she could not act as an independent figure and would be forced to become a “supplicant”.  

What is more, she is repeating her old mistakes and is unwilling to acknowledge her fault in the migrant influx: for example, the Merkel government answered US president Donald Trump’s accusations of a growth in crime because of Germany’s migration policy by stating that official statistics show that the reverse is the case. Using such an approach, it is impossible to raise Merkel’s popularity numbers among the people. 


Translated by Yulian Orlov.