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July 05, 2018

Does the German compromise work? Legally? Politically?

The political compromise between Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer will be good enough to last through the summer until the Bavarian elections in October. But what then?

We noted a passage in the lead story of FAZ this morning that quotes a migration policy expert within the CDU's Bundestag group. He doubts that the decision to set up refugee centres is legal under German law, or that they could be set up within a few months. This quote from him struck us:

"But such factual considerations should not play a role if the overriding goal is to stop the federal government drifting apart. A failure of the government in the controversy over asylum would be the biggest boon to the AfD imaginable."

Unfortunately, factual consideration have a habit of intruding in our lives. What this CDU MP is saying is symptomatic of the way Merkel has been managing crises, with one fake solution chasing the next one. We know that some of her fans, especially abroad, celebrate her method, whilst omitting to mention that it has produced only superficial stability. 

Stefan Braun has an interesting comment in Süddeutsche Zeitung on this precise problem. He said Merkel's performance after 13 years is mixed. The numbers are looking good. Unemployment is down. The economy appears strong. But the democratic spirit of the country has suffered, as has the trust in the ability of political elites to solve problems. Her policies ended up strengthening the forces of the hard left and the hard right.

The SPD, meanwhile, still has to approve the deal. Will they, or won't they? We noted a comment by Katarina Barley, the SPD justice minister, saying that the agreement is simultaneously illegal and immoral. She is right, of course, but we agree with the writer of this morning's briefing from Spiegel Online, who noted dryly that whatever happens the CSU would always rely on the reflexes of the SPD. The SPD is simply not in a position to fight an election. 

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July 05, 2018

What to make of Salvini's relations with Russia?

Alberto Nardelli talked to EU diplomats who are becoming increasingly concerned about the nature of the relationship between Matteo Salvini and Vladimir Putin. 

The key issue is the partnership agreement between the Lega and United Russia, Putin's Party. It contains a clause on information-sharing relevant to bilateral and multilateral affairs. The question is whether there is a deeper level of communication happening between the two parties, or whether they are simply united in their distaste for the EU and their admiration for Donald Trump. The diplomats said that European governments were playing close attention to Italy's behaviour especially during international meetings. Nardelli notes that Giuseppe Conte did not make good on previous threats by Italy to refuse a renewal of the Russian sanctions. But Conte took time with the decision, and made the point in the discussions that the sanctions should not hit Russian civil society. The officials Nardelli spoke to expressed concern that Conte may not be his own man, but may be under the direct control of Salvini and Luigi Di Maio. Conte was observed during the meeting to make several phone calls to Rome - presumably with his political masters. 

"... what puzzles diplomats about the new government is how removing sanctions on Russia seems to have become such a top priority for Lega and M5S while Italy faces other, more pressing issues."

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