EU Internal Policy

Europe migrant crisis: Merkel loses grip on her ruling coalition

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague last week.     BOJAN PANCEVSKI

German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have to postpone announcing her candidacy for next year’s election amid disquiet on the Right of her ruling coalition at her “welcome policy” towards refugees.

The news magazine Der Spiegel claimed over the weekend that the Christian Social Union, junior partners of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, had yet to endorse the Chancellor as their joint candidate.

Ms Merkel had hoped to be confirmed at her own party’s conference this December, but this may now have to be postponed. The general election is expected in September next year. Ms Merkel, who has been Chancellor since 2005, is widely expected to seek a fourth term.

Ms Merkel’s latest woes came at the end of a week in which she heard firsthand of the impact of her policy on her neighbours.

The German leader met 15 EU leaders in Berlin and in Italy, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Her “grand tour” was ostensibly to prepare for a summit in Slovakia on September 16, at which the 27 remaining EU members will agree a joint stance on Brexit. Britain is not invited.

Instead she was forced to listen to a tirade of complaints from central European countries resist­ing attempts to take in more migrants.

Even the Defence Minister of Austria, Germany’s closest ally, voiced direct criticism of Ms Merkel’s stance on immigration. “Germany must say clearly: the borders are closed,” said Hans Peter Doskozil.

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s ­fervently anti-migration Prime Minister, vowed to turn the fence he erected along the border with Serbia to stop asylum-seekers into a “robust defence system”.

“The borders cannot be protected with flowers and cuddly toys, but with policemen, soldiers and weapons,” Mr Orban said.

Ms Merkel faces a more direct­ test of her policies in her home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where ­support is surging for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.

Dressed in a hip T-shirt and worn-out jeans, its leading candidate, Leif-Erik Holm, a former radio presenter, could be mistaken for a Green Party activist.

It is clear when Mr Holm speaks, however, that curbing migration tops his political ­priorities.

“The migration crisis is by far the biggest concern of voters and we are the only ones who have clearly rejected Merkel’s open-door policy,” he said last week.

“Brexit wouldn’t have happened without Merkel: Brits wanted to take back control ­because they saw that Merkel’s unilateral action — without consulting our parliament, let alone her European partners — brought chaos to Europe.

“We will miss Britain, but I can’t blame you for leaving.”

The state is not in fact taking many refugees: just 2 per cent of the total entering Germany are due to be settled there.

But anxiety about the impact of migration is high following three attacks by asylum-seekers in Bavaria to the south; two of them claimed by Islamic State.

Mr Holm claims that naturist resorts have had to post “no filming” signs in Arabic after refug­ees were seen taking pictures of naked sunbathers. A chemist’s chain has started selling pepper spray.

Polls suggest support for the AfD, which is not even represented in the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, has surged to 21 per cent — one point below the CDU.

Mr Holm claims Ms Merkel has taken the CDU so far to the Left that a “wide open” space has been created on the Right — which his party is now claiming for “middle-class patriots”.

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