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Friday 29 June 2018

The re-emerging migrant crisis has provoked renewed anger across the continent, the fault line lies between Italy and Germany, revealing a new generation of EU problems it is incapable of resolving. 

This week’s EU summit was supposed to mark another stage in Britain’s EU withdrawal process, but having failed to forge a consensus on what kind of border there should be in Northern Ireland, which dictates Britain’s wider customs relationship with the EU, there was little for Theresa May to do, other than turn up and chip in on the migrant crisis, which consumed yesterday’s events. The summit conclusions, agreed between the EU28, were eventually published in the early hours of this morning.

Exercising its veto to the frustration of Merkel and Macron was debutant prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte. Backed by Italy’s populist Lega-M5S coalition, Conte was holding out for vastly improved EU migration protocols. disappointingly, he caved in with little to show for it.

The other leaders forced through their mad plan for migrant registration centres on European territory. Merkel is a particularly big fan of this non-solution, which fails to either strengthen Europe’s external border or tackle the people-smuggling operations running riot on the other side of the Med.

Concessions not of Brexit proportions

The primary concession eked out by Conte is for the EU to “swiftly explore the concept of regional disembarkation platforms” (aka processing centres in North Africa). The EU also recognises “a consensus needs to be found” to “reform” its ludicrous Common European Asylum System, but stops short of providing assurances the cat and mouse farce of registering illegals only in the country where they land, and obliging them to stay there (i.e. in Italy and other exposed Mediterranean countries) will be sorted out proper.

The EU’s asylum system makes no sense in a passport-free zone. The dysfunctional bloc faces a choice, help out Italy or bin Schengen enabling the new, muscular administration in Rome to take matters into its own hands, forbidding the landing of migrants salvaged from deliberately flimsy boats floating across the sea from Libya. But that would not sit well with the globalists in Brussels. Not at all.

A new old Germany

Most migrants who successfully, and quite easily avoided Italian authorities head north to Germany where the prospects look much brighter, particularly since the formation of a new hostile Italian government, fronted internationally by the inspiring Lega leader, Matteo Salvini. But Germany may now have its own Salvini.

Before the summit, CSU leader and German interior minister, Horst Seehofer cleverly positioned himself, daring the Chancellor to fire him if she fails to come back from Brussels with an acceptable deal. If he she doesn’t he will institute unilateral restrictions on migrants. These controls will be concentrated along the Bavarian frontier, the CSU’s home state – check out this Leave.EU tweet for a taste of the local sentiment.

Seehofer is more of a hardliner than Merkel, but he is strategically motivated to show some steel. In conservative Bavaria, Alternative für Deutschland snap at the CSU’s heals.

Politics in Germany is getting traditional, the electorate is crying out for a strong external border. Germany is one of six Schengen countries to have reimposed controls at the frontier, but they’re half-hearted. Emmanuel Macron has cultivated a reputation for welcoming all and sundry to the French Republic, but their border guards are not to be trifled with. The same goes for Sebastian Kurz’s Austria. Instead, the weakest link lies in between, and it’s also clearly signposted. Echoes of Angela Merkel’s 2016 invitation continue ring around the developing world.

Seehofer wants Germany to catch up with France and Austria and ensure controls are renewed when they elapse in November.

Counterintuitively for a passionate Eurosceptic Matteo Salvini wants Germany to open its borders and do away with the registration protocol so that the burden can be shared. Many Italians would prefer to leave the EU altogether meaning a conventional border manned by border guards on both sides in the North. With that in place, there would be little incentive to make the perilous journey from across the Med. But the EU’s collapse is not yet imminent and Italy needs a solution now.

So does Mr Seehofer. He set Merkel a July 1 ultimatum. She vowed to get a decent deal together at the summit, backed up with bilateral arrangements with countries like Italy and Greece. These have not materialised. The ball is now in the interior minister’s court.

At the beginning of the week he was reported as saying he “couldn’t work with this woman anymore,” he now has a chance to lock horns and ramp up border controls. Merkel leads a shaky coalition, which in many ways reflects frustration in Germany about mass migration and the EU. In past times she would have been well positioned to dismiss someone like Seehofer. Not now.

The liberal media thoroughly enjoy reporting a 97% drop in trans-Med illegal crossings, but this only reinforces the fact that crisis has turned into a permanent challenge that the EU will never have the means to resolve. This will only get more problematic for Merkel and her friends in Brussels.