Future of EU hinges on solving migration issue, says Merkel

German chancellor under increasing pressure to secure comprehensive EU-wide deal

German chancellor Angela Merkel after her speech to the German Bundestag in Berlin. Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

German chancellor Angela Merkel after her speech to the German Bundestag in Berlin. Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

 

German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the fate of the EU could rest on find a joint solution to the emotive refugee question.

Her own political future rests on the outcome of the two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels, which concludes today, after her Bavarian allies threatened to close German borders in the absence of concrete, burden-sharing deals on migration with EU partners.

With the clock ticking and pressure growing, a fiery Angela Merkel warned the Bundestag – and the wider European audience – that the EU had never faced anything like the refugee crisis.

Europe has faced many challenges but migration could be the fateful question,” she said, framing it as part of a wider political battle between multi- and unilateralism “Either we master this ... or else no one will believe in our [multilateral] value system that has made us so strong.”

In her Bundestag address she stuck to her long-held argument that such a vast challenge requires European, not national, solutions. Challenging the July 1st deadline set by her Bavarian Christian Social Union CSU) for her to come up with an acceptable EU-wide agreement on issue of migrants and refugees, she said such a sustainable agreement “will take time”.

Broader agreement was still being held up, she said, by disagreement on common EU asylum standards and refugee quotas. Instead the chancellor flagged a “coalition of the willing” to share the refugee burden with frontline countries like Greece and Italy and to stop mobile migrants “seeking out” where they file for asylum.

The German leader was full of praise for her interior minister Horst Seehofer, the CSU leader who has pushed her into her tightest political bind yet.

Conciliatory signals

She praised him for presenting a migration “master plan” to tackle bureaucratic failings at migration authorities and after a series of shocking crimes involving migrants.

But Mr Seehofer wasn’t in the Bundestag chamber to hear the praise. After three years of unproductive wrangling in Brussels, the CSU man says he is is “proud” to have “kissed awake” the refugee question in the EU.

On Wednesday evening he used a television interview to insist he would remain tough on migration, while sending conciliatory signals to Dr Merkel. “No one has an interest in toppling the chancellor,” he said. “But I cannot tell you how things will proceed after Sunday.”

A weekend of high tension awaits Dr Merkel on her return from Brussels. At 3pm on Sunday the CSU executive board meets to decide whether the results of the Brussels summit go far enough to meet their demands.

If not, Mr Seehofer has promised to instruct federal police to start turning back migrants already refused asylum in Germany, or previously registered elsewhere. Sunday is gearing up to be a long day of shuttle diplomacy – and megaphone diplomacy in media interviews.

At 4pm Dr Merkel records a political interview, for broadcast three hours later, presenting her take on the Brussels summit outcome. Officials at her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) expect a decision on the future of the CDU/CSU alliance – and the fourth Merkel administration – on Sunday evening.