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Leonid Bershidsky

Merkel Engineers a Better Deal on Migration

Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe all get something out of it.



Photographer: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

For all the premature political obituaries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not lost her ability to hammer out compromises that please no one but somehow work for everyone. The European Union national leaders’ joint statement on migration, worked out in Brussels in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, reconciles the interests of countries with the most contradictory of positions — Germany, Italy and the Eastern European nations — and does just enough to make further rebellion by Merkel’s Bavarian coalition partners look unreasonable.

Parties in the migration debate went into the EU summit on Friday with positions that appeared hard to bridge. Merkel needed agreement from countries where undocumented immigrants first show up in Europe, such as Greece, Italy, Spain and, to a lesser extent, Hungary, to take back asylum seekers who try to move to wealthier Germany while their cases are being considered. The intra-EU migration of potential refugees is a pet peeve of German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, whose Bavaria-based Christian Social Union is part of Merkel’s governing coalition. The CSU faces a tough election in October, and is trying to draw nationalist voters away from the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.