DEU121121AA001BERLIN – Three years after German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open her nation's borders to refugees, the policy that's come to define her political career appears poised to end it.

But the threat comes from an unlikely source: Merkel's conservative, Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Spearheaded by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder, the party has given Merkel two weeks to develop a plan with European Union partners to reform asylum the bloc’s policies or else Seehofer and Söder would unilaterally implement a policy to turn away asylum seekers at the German border, likely bringing an end to Merkel's already fragile centrist coalition just three months after its inauguration.

That would not only spell the end for Merkel, Europe's longest-serving leader, but would also recast the future of the European Union, where eastern members have grown increasingly hostile to Brussels’ refugee policies.

"It would mean that the positions on the fringes of the European Union in Eastern and Central Europe to not accept any refugees will become stronger, which would be a potential end to German-led European policy and German-led refugee policy as we know it," said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist in Berlin. "It's like domino theory in a way if the coalition falls apart: first one stone falls, then another and another."

The Christian Social Union has been vehemently against Merkel’s open-door refugee policy, which ignored EU regulations that require refugees to undergo the asylum process in their first country of arrival. Her decision to allow unrestricted travel for asylum seekers has brought more than 1 million newcomers, predominantly from the Middle East and North Africa, to Germany, overwhelming authorities and creating a cultural backlash.

The move rankled many Germans.

Last year, the right-wing, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, or AfD, entered the German parliament for the first time with 12.6 percent of the vote, effectively tripling their support from 2013’s poll when they failed to enter parliament.

Meanwhile, on the heels of a series of mess-ups by the government – including a terror attack in December 2016 at the hands of a migrant that should have been deported and the recent discovery that authorities had botched thousands of asylum applications in the city-state of Bremen – the AfD has continued to rise in the polls.

To staunch support for the AfD, Merkel and her centrist government have walked back on the open-door policy in some respects, increasing deportations, allowing only limited migration of refugees’ families and forming bilateral deals with outside partners like Turkey to halt the flow of migrants into the country. Such actions have greatly decreased the number of migrants coming to Germany.

But two weeks ago, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wanted to take German immigration policies even further by beefing up border security and reinstating the European regulations mandating that refugees must remain in the country where they were registered.

Merkel accepted the border moves but rejected reinstating the EU policies. Instead, she called for measures that would create a unified European asylum policy to replace country-by-country actions.

“I’m deeply convinced whenever we talk about the dangers of the European Union, that it’s first and foremost about the foreign policy polyphony that we have, and secondly, that we still don’t have a common strategy to answer the question of mastering migration,” Chancellor Merkel said June 10 on the political talk show Anne Will. “If Europe doesn’t accomplish that, then Europe is in danger.”

Instead of getting in line with the chancellor, leaders of her sister party have dug in their heels.

If she tries to stop the interior minister and his CSU allies, they’ll end the coalition, Seehofer told the German daily Passauer Neue Presse in an June 21 interview.

“If you dismiss a minister who only cares about the safety and order of his country, that would be unprecedented,” Seehofer said. “I am chairman of the CSU, one of three parties in this coalition, and I act with full backing of my party. If the person in the chancellery is dissatisfied with the work of the federal minister of the interior, then she should end the coalition.”

The threat could force Merkel to curb her divisive refugee policies ahead of the Christian Social Union’s tough battle against the AfD in regional elections in Bavaria in October, said Olaf Boehnke, a senior advisor in Berlin with Rasmussen Global, a Brussels-based think tank.

“Seehofer is trying to kill two birds with one stone,” he said. “The CSU is under enormous pressure in Bavaria, and it’s in his own interest to say, ‘I’m the strong Bavarian guy in Berlin’.”

Merkel has reacted by working some of the politicking for which she’s known in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron June 20. The chancellor agreed to the French president’s controversial plans to erect a common Eurozone budget, an obvious concession to the president in order to get his support for a revamped asylum policy at upcoming migration summits in Brussels both this weekend and next.

But it will be a tough task with nations like Italy, Hungary, Poland and Austria, now all led by right-wing, anti-immigrant forces bent at bucking a Merkel-led bloc and stopping refugees at all costs.

“She’s trying to practice the same magic and come to a compromise. She has to, or else she’ll lose all support,” said Boehnke. “It will be a hard task this time around. She has to acknowledge that the populists are very successful in stimulating this atmosphere that we have to urgently do something about migration.”

If Merkel isn’t able to stanch those forces and make progress, “then the coalition will end,” Neugebauer added.

That would not only provide more footing for the AfD to gain ground by attacking Merkel and her coalition partners as incompetent. It would also lend weight to those forces within the European Union that have sought to dismantle the liberal, German-led status quo within the block.

“That would be a danger for the German democracy and everything that stands behind it if she’s not able to implement something,” Neugebauer said.

A version of this story can be found in The Washington Times.
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_RWA161616aa001.jpegKIGALI, Rwanda — Raking through the knee-high grass on his tea farm to clear fallen tree branches, Ezekiel Shinga marvels at how life has changed in his country in the 22 years after the genocide that made this tiny east African county a watchword for horror and brutality around the world.

“I think no one could have predicted the strides Rwanda has made in the past two decades,” said Mr. Shinga, whose farm is in the southern district of Nyaruguru. “Everything in this country has changed. People own businesses, and the majority here are tea farmers. At least everyone has income. There’s peace, and neighbors now love each other.”

Read more at The Washington Times

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_USAObama130222AA001.jpegATHENS — President Obama called for a "course correction" for the global economy Wednesday in an effort to stave off the nationalist impulses being felt in the United States and Europe.

In an address to the Greek people, Obama said growing distrust of elites and institutions demands that democratic governments work to become more responsive to the people they serve.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR150318aa001.jpegJERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party swept to a decisive victory results showed Wednesday in a general election that exposed Israel's rifts at home and abroad, including with the White House.

With the majority of votes counted, Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in the country's Knesset, or parliament. The center-left opposition Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog won 24 seats. Israel's Election Committee is expected to confirm the results Thursday.

Read more at USA Today

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party swept to a decisive victory results showed Wednesday in a general election that exposed Israel's rifts at home and abroad, including with the White House.

With the majority of votes counted, Likud won 30 of the 120 seats in the country's Knesset, or parliament. The center-left opposition Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog won 24 seats. Israel's Election Committee is expected to confirm the results Thursday.

Read more at USA Today
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_111111.jpegGAZA CITY — As the Palestinian death toll rose, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to continue to target members of Hamas with air strikes in Gaza until rockets the militant group has been firing into Israel from the southern border halt.

"I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet," Netanyahu said at a news conference.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_5410433581_8ae746d004.jpegBAGHDAD — Islamic militants Tuesday attacked areas in central Baqouba, a city just 30 miles northeast of Iraq's capital Baghdad, but were pushed back by security forces and tribal fighters.

In one incident, at least 44 Sunni prisoners died in an apparent foiled rescue attempt by Sunni Muslim militants from the al-Qaeda breakaway group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — referred to as ISIL or ISIS. The Levant is a traditional name for the region including Iraq and greater Syria.

Read more at USA Today


ABUJA, Nigeria — Frustration and despair over the fate of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria is forcing families to organize the rescue themselves.

"We are trying to search for our daughters on our own," said a mother of one of the girls, asking to remain unidentified out of fear of causing her daughter further harm. "Soon we will be heading to the forest.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130705aa003.jpegCAIRO - Violence persisted at Egypt’s universities this week as part of a broader conflict between authorities and student protesters that underscores rights’ activists concerns about obstacles facing independence of the nation’s universities.

On Wednesday, three blasts erupted outside Cairo University, apparently targeting riot police deployed to deal with protests staged almost daily by students. A senior police officer was killed and five others were wounded, Egypt’s state news agency reported. The protest movement Students Against the Coup distanced itself from the attack, cancelling a protest planned for midday at Cairo University. But the incident underscores wider anger at a security crackdown on government opposition.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media


Following the October 3 deaths of around 400 migrants off the Italian island of Lampedusa, European leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday have promised to put immigration on the agenda alongside scheduled discussions on growth, competitiveness and fighting unemployment. But as long they hold to the illusion that interests of migrants are at odds with those of "native" workers, their policies will continue to put lives at risk – and will do nothing to help the EU economy.

Over the past decade, Europe has invested more and more money on keeping non-Europeans out. Frontex, created in 2005 to police Europe’s external borders, saw its budget balloon from €19 million in 2006 to €85 million in 2012. But analysts say this approach does little to reduce overall immigration figures and merely plays into the hands of those ready to exploit irregular immigration, from people-smugglers to unscrupulous employers.



ATHENS - In crisis-ridden Greece, a network of volunteer-run crisis clinics is providing citizens with the medical care denied them by the state. 

Read more at Deutsche Welle


Whether by a harrowing boat trip across the Mediterranean, a mountain crossing over the Turkish border or a flight to Germany, more than 2 million Syrians have fled their war-torn country to take refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq as well as in the Gulf countries and in Europe.

Two million people have fled the war as of September, says the United Nations. Those who got away from the 30-month-old conflict share horror stories of snipers and aerial bombardment, of murdered loved ones and wounded friends. The problems they face in their new homes varies tremendously depending on the country.

Read more at USA Today


NEW DELHI — Eight young women dressed in red tunics and black scarves make their way along a narrow lane in Lucknow's Madiyav slum in northern India as young men move quickly out of their way, avoiding their eyes.

The girls reach a house at the corner of the lane: Two go in and emerge with a young man. Preeti Verma, 17, has a hand around his neck and pushes him toward the girls who then pummel him with slippers and their fists. No onlookers intervene.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130629aa001.jpegBERLIN - Germany takes in more refugees than any other rich country. But that does not mean it is easy for the hundreds of thousands of refugees stuck in limbo.

One year and eight months since Chima Oxumbor arrived at Düsseldorf's police station to appeal for asylum, he has a €1-an-hour (85p-an-hour) job cleaning the toilets and floors at the camp where he shares a room with four or five other people. His life in Germany is not what he expected.

Read more at The Guardian

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