Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Empire (Angela Merkel) strikes back at Austria's Chancellor Babyface

The EU countries are going through their own version of coming up with non-solutions to not-really-problems of immigration.

The latest round was a compromise on Tuesday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and her Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU). Which seems to have resolved a power struggle between the two. (Angela Merkel's last-ditch migrant compromise under scrutiny Deutsche Welle 03.07.2018) At least for this week. Wolfgang Munchau suggests that Merkel's trademark extend-and-pretend solutions are having "rapidly declining half-life."

The EU's immigration crisis is real, in my view. It's a long-term problem since at least 2011 that will not go away any time soon. People fleeing war and civil violence and desperate conditions in war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya. There was a crisis moment in 2015, when a big surge of refugees headed north, most of which Germany absorbed.

The current EU solution - arguably the only one in place - is that Turkey, Italy, and Greece are holding large numbers of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East in camps of varying quality. Under the "Dublin" rules governing EU immigration, the EU country of first entry is responsible for processing asylum applications. So the burdens really are unfairly distributed to Greece and Italy, and other EU countries have not been forthcoming, to put it mildly, in accepting refugees that initially enter the EU through other countries.

But for the EU as a whole, the crisis is a longer one, and 2015 was an unusual event in terms of the suddenness of the influx for much larger numbers of refugees. In countries like Germany and Austria, the influx of asylum-seekers has declined year by year since the drastic high of 2015 and can't reasonably be said to be serious problems for either of those two countries in 2018.

But rightwing demagogues have made hay with the issue through anti-immigrant agitation.

While the long-term immigration crisis is a distinct issue itself, in the EU it is intimately connected with the ongoing euro crisis, which is currently in a dormant stage but can break out against at almost any moment. Joe Stiglitz gives a good description of the interconnection in How to exit the eurozone 07/02/2018:
The resulting schisms [in the EU over the euro crisis] have also made it harder to solve other problems, most notably the migration crisis, where European rules impose an unfair burden on the frontline countries receiving migrants, such as Greece and Italy. These also just so happen to be the debtor countries, already plagued with economic difficulties. No wonder there is a rebellion.
In the current situation, Italy is in a particularly volatile moment because it's a country where the immigration and eurozone crises intersect in a particularly visible way.

Ruth Wodak of the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right describes several factors on which people need to focus if we want to have a realistic picture of the current immigration issue in Europe in her The Revival of Numbers and Lists in Radical Right Politics 06/30/2018.

The German compromise on Tuesday was mainly a cosmetic one for (at the moment) a non-problem. Leading up to it, Austria's 31-year-old Chancellor Sebastian "Babyface" Kurz meddled in an unusual way in German internal politics. He very publicly supported Seehofer in his power play against Merkel. The provocative nature of this is compounded by the fact that Merkel's party (CDU) and Seehofer's party (CSU) are international "sister" parties of Kurz's Christian Democratic People's Party (ÖVP). And Babyface started on July 1 as the President of the Council of Europe the European Union, a position that rotates to different EU countries every six months.

I'm very critical of Angela Merkel in many ways. But she is one of the most accomplished politicians of my lifetime. And she knows how to shove the (political) knife. So I expected retaliation on her part. And part of it has begun. The Merkel-Seehofer deal said Germany wouldn't accept new asylum-seekers entering from neighboring countries. This is to be handled by bilateral deals. And other countries like Czechia or Poland who doesn't want to accept their return will be sent to Austria under a bilateral agreement with them. An agreement that, uh, doesn't yet exist.

This is the visible beginning of Angie's payback to Babyface. It won't be the last. She's telling him, hey, you want "closed borders" to Austria, fine. We'll close the German border and any people we get we don't want, we'll dump them back onto you, you silly whining twat.

If you take a political shot like this at Angie, you'd better makes sure it hits its mark. Otherwise, there will be repercussions.

This is mostly Kabuki theater at the moment. Because there aren't hordes of scary immigrants pouring over the border into Germany. Or Austria either.

The even the Kabuki illustrates some of the limits of trying to operate in an international movement of nationalists.

Stay tuned. There will be more. It's unlikely that Babyface will fare any better in the next rounds.

[Minor updates included]

No comments: