daily briefing How Merkel could topple

Seehofer the gadfly is back doing what he does best, while soccer has indeed gone seismic. Here's our Daily Briefing for June 18th, 2018.
Not if but when.

For almost 13 years as chancellor, Angela Merkel has outmaneuvered all rivals, schemers and plotters. But now her time could be up. Two of her Christian-Democratic predecessors, Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard, fell from power not after losing the electorate, but after losing the support of their own parliamentary bloc. That may now be Merkel’s fate, too.

Today, the top brass of her own party, the CDU, and its Bavarian frenemies, the CSU, will meet, separately in Berlin and Munich, to strategize about the coming days and weeks. Horst Seehofer, the CSU’s boss, federal interior minister and perennial Merkel gadfly, told one newspaper that he “can’t work with that woman anymore.”

The issue is, as it has been since the crisis of 2015, refugees. If Seehofer, acting as interior minister, really starts turning back asylum seekers at the border, this will count as open insubordination to Merkel. She would have to fire him. That would probably lead to a break between the CDU and CSU, which would cost their governing coalition with the Social Democrats its parliamentary majority. Merkel would step down or be forced out.

A workaround might look as follows: Seehofer and Merkel slow down their confrontation for a few weeks, so that Merkel can negotiate the semblance of a “European” solution at the EU summit on June 28th. But Seehofer, who thinks of nothing but his poll numbers in Bavaria and its election in September, may no longer want a compromise. He wants to look tough on migrants. I’d put the odds of Merkel being ousted this year at 40 percent.

While these two carry on their mind games, we shouldn’t forget the human drama of migration. The Aquarius, a ship that had rescued hundreds of Africans trying to cross the Mediterranean in dinghies, has now finally completed its odyssey: Having been turned back by Italy and Malta, the ship docked yesterday in Spain, where the passengers are getting medical help.

America, of course, has its own southern border and migrant drama. There the administration of Donald Trump has been separating migrant children from their parents, apparently calculating that such cruelty would deter others from making the trek. In one case, a child was apparently pulled from its mother while breastfeeding. As a reminder that humaneness transcends party lines, Laura Bush, wife of former Republican president George W., has now stated the obvious: “This zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

Your Daily Allison or Andreas

Welcome to the Daily Briefing, by the way. In case you hadn’t noticed, this newsletter is no longer called the Morning Briefing and has new authors. From Monday through Thursday, either I or Allison Williams, deputy editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt Global, will be guiding you through the news headlines. We’ll develop our own styles and voices over time, and we can’t wait for your feedback. On Fridays you will still, as before, get the Morning Briefing by Sven Afhüppe, editor-in-chief of the German-language Handelsblatt.

And here are some other stories I’ll be watching today:

As a hobby classicist, I have a thing for Alexander the Great, and so do a lot of other people. That’s why Greece and its northern neighbor Macedonia have been fighting, ever since the little Slavic country broke out of the former Yugoslavia, about who gets to use the name “Macedonia”. Greece also has a province by that name. Now they’ve reached a compromise: The Slavs will calls themselves “North Macedonia.” But most Greeks still don’t like it.

Germany and France are talking about a rapprochement on reform of the euro zone. Merkel will meet Emmanuel Macron of France tomorrow to hammer out a common stance they can take to the EU summit on June 28th and 29th. But I doubt there’ll be a breakthrough. On the size and purpose of a common euro zone budget, on common deposit insurance for banks, and more: The French and German philosophies are just too different, sometimes even opposed.

Thomas, you da Mann

Meanwhile, Germany’s head of state, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is spending a few days in my former home, California. He won’t be meeting Trump or anything. Instead, he’ll be attending the opening of the Thomas Mann House in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. That’s the modernist bungalow where Mann spent his exile from Nazi Germany in the 1940s. More recently, it was almost torn down, before the German government bought and refurbished it. It will now house intellectuals on fellowships. Mann, incidentally, eventually moved from there to Switzerland, because he didn’t like postwar US politics. Oh, how I would love to read Mann’s opinions about Trump’s America today.

And finally, lest you accuse me of avoiding the subject: Germany lost, Mexico won, and the victory was well deserved! That’s all there is to be said. Here is a tidbit about how that felt in Mexico: Boffins at the country’s Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigations seismically recorded a tremor. It was, they said, set off by “mass jumping”.

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