I realize it can be hard to keep an eye on events in Europe these days, what with all of the drama playing out in the United States and across the Pacific, but there are some major events unfolding across the pond which could lead to a serious shakeup in the EU power structure right now. The latest round of unrest was significantly exacerbated earlier this week when Italy decided to turn away a ship carrying hundreds of refugees. That happened at the same time that Angela Merkel was facing a serious challenge to her open border policies from her own Interior Minister. Emmanuel Macron got in on the action, calling Italy’s decision “sickening.”
Now, in what appears to be a showdown between the open and closed border camps, officials from Austria and Italy have joined with Germany’s Interior Minister to form what they’re referring to as an Axis of the Willing, which seeks to secure their nation’s borders and curb the flow of migrants. This is leading to something of a crisis of leadership in several countries and things are only heating up further now. (Daily Mail)
The hardline interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy have formed an ‘axis of the willing’ to combat illegal immigration, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Wednesday, escalating a Europe-wide row over the issue.
The announcement by Kurz in Berlin after talks with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer marks a shot across the bow at Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is trying to pull together a deal for EU cooperation on placing asylum seekers.
Seehofer – who is locked in an open migration feud with Merkel that is threatening the stability of her coalition government – said that he and his far-right Austrian and Italian counterparts, Herbert Kickl and Matteo Salvini, formed their alliance this week.
I firmly believe that the individual countries in the European Union have the right to chart their own course when it comes to border security and migration issues without being dictated to by Brussels. But with that said, Seehofer, Kicki and Salvini might have given a bit more thought to the name of their new unofficial coalition if only in terms of branding. Anything with the word “Axis” in it when you’re talking about Europe probably brings back some unpleasant memories and associations which they could likely do without.
Still, this is stirring things up on a couple of fronts. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is openly calling for a new strategic partnership between Rome, Vienna and Berlin to “combat illegal migration” and stave off what he described as, “another catastrophe like we saw in 2015.” This was a thinly veiled shot at Angela Merkel and her policies which opened the floodgates a few years ago.
All of this is straining relations across Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to visit Italy tomorrow. Will that still happen? The Italians are saying that they’re still waiting for an apology from Macron before they decided.
Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Thursday he still expects French President Emmanuel Macron to apologize for critical comments he made about Italian immigration policy two days ago…
“We’re waiting for an apology. If we get one, we can start down a new path,” Di Maio said in a radio interview. “There’s still time to take a step back, apologize, and then start over.”
Reuters is reporting that there was a call from Paris to Rome this morning, but no details were released. If an apology was made, nobody was putting out a press release to confirm it.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, the Interior Minister is doing more than just complaining. He’s threatening the stability of Merkel’s already shaky ruling coalition. If that bond is seen as weakening, we’re being told that Merkel could be facing a confidence vote as soon as next week. If she manages to lose that vote she may be forced to step down as Chancellor and call for new elections.
Biggest story you're likely missing right now: Merkel in an internal party crisis in Germany (over migration) and could lose a confidence vote this week, leading to her resignation. Situation in Berlin on a knife edge.
— Tom Wright (@thomaswright08) June 14, 2018
Europe has lived to see interesting times, and for once the media can’t credibly blame this one on Trump. The migrant situation is splitting the European coalition in two and the current power structure may be about to change significantly. Stay tuned.