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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Angela Merkel faces battle over European migration reform

Poll suggests three-quarters of Germans are sceptical of her ability to strike a deal

German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting on June 20, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting on June 20, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

The prospect of Angela Merkel securing a solution for a new migration crisis to bolster her precarious position as German leader appeared dim on Wednesday amid broad disputes across Europe over future policy, according to analysts and polls.

Mrs Merkel’s hardline coalition partners gave her two weeks to secure a deal after the government nearly broke up amid disagreements of how the country should deal with migrants at its borders. European Union leaders are due to discuss the issue this week with Mrs Merkel seeking a deal that would appease her coalition colleagues and the increasingly tough stance being taken by countries within the 28-nation bloc.

Three-quarters of Germans questioned in a poll of more than 5,000 people said they were sceptical of the Chancellor being able to strike any deal, with only 18 per cent believing that she would be successful, according to pollster Civey for newspaper Die Welt.

The diplomatic moves come after the Italian government sparked a renewed migration crisis after refusing to allow migrant rescue ships to land at its ports. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s hardline interior minister, on Tuesday intensified his crackdown on migration by calling for a register for the country’s minority Roma community.

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The community includes people originally from Romania and the former Yugoslavia, many of whom live in camps on the outskirts of large cities. Mr Salvini dismissed the current situation as “chaos”. His comments sparked an immediate backlash from centre-left politicians who likened the move to Italy’s Fascist-era census of Jews.

Mrs Merkel and her open-door policy has often been at odds with leaders of European populist governments who were carried into power by voters concerned about the impact of migration.

She now faces similar disputes within her own government. Mrs Merkel’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, wants to turn away migrants who have registered in other EU states. Mrs Merkel opposes any unilateral move to reverse policies that saw Germany become the biggest receiver of migrants fleeing to Europe from war and poverty at the height of the crisis in 2015.

The shift towards increasing hostility to migration has prompted the EU to consider building processing centres in north Africa to deter people making the crossing into Europe, according to a leaked document.

The European anti-migration lobby – led by figures such as Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban – will see Mrs Merkel’s weakness as another sign that the “tough guys of Europe are coming”, said Peter Kreko, an analyst at the Hungarian consultancy Political Capital.

“It will be extremely difficult for Mrs Merkel to get a good enough deal to make everybody happy,” he said. “It would be a miracle.

“Mrs Merkel is just bleeding politically and I think there are too many enemies of hers in Europe who would take advantage of this.”

The increasingly isolated Mrs Merkel met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday amid concerns that the broader European project is unravelling with countries focused on their own self-interests. Mr Macron called for a European border police to cut smuggling routes in a concession to the anti-migration lobby.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was due to meet Mrs Merkel and other leaders this week to discuss the issue. He has called for an alliance with Italy and Germany to resolve the issue.

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