Angela Merkel's hope of salvation is in Europe. But it is a Europe that is itself fiercely divided. It's not a safety net for Merkel; it's more just a thin thread. The chancellor must commit the Europeans to joint refugee policies, according to demands by her coalition partner, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU). Otherwise, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, its leader, will shut the German borders to a large group of migrants. The chancellor is being subjected to blackmail.
At least the CSU has now given Merkel a brief respite. Otherwise, the chancellor's sister party is being utterly relentless and uncompromising. It insists on Germany going it alone in turning back refugees previously registered in other European countries. That would alleviate the situation in Germany, but transfer the problem to the other states. The European Union would then face what Germany is currently facing: an acid test of its political cohesion.
Merkel has 14 days
Angela Merkel has already been trying for three years to solve the refugee issue at the EU level. Three years without results. Now she has 14 days left. This mission is not likely to succeed. But she does not have a choice. For Angela Merkel, everything is at stake: her political convictions, her legacy and her chancellorship. Now, it's not just about Germany anymore. It's about the unity of Europe.
The German chancellor must now make sure that the European Union does not break up, that Europe as an alliance remains capable of acting and that nation-states — possibly including Germany — do not operate unilaterally from now on. In a "turbulent world," it is more important than ever that Europe is "strong and united," she affirmed on Saturday.
Angela Merkel's fate now lies in the hands of other European governments – of all things, Greece, Italy and Austria. She would like to sign bilateral accords with these countries, committing them to take back asylum-seekers who come to Germany via their territory.
Read more: Analysis: Did Angela Merkel bring this political blow on herself?
The CSU is bullying the chancellor with its ultimatum, openly and in plain sight. It's an outrageous maneuver that shows how weak the chancellor has become in her own political camp and how poisoned the relationship is between the sister parties, the CDU and CSU. A strong chancellor would not put up with it.
At her press conference, Angela Merkel tried to evoke a different impression, saying that even after July 1, there would be no automatism; that the outcome of the European negotiations would first be examined. And she said that she, as chancellor, was the one with the power to make policies.
"We wish the chancellor much luck," said Horst Seehofer, referring to the European Union talks. At the same time, he made it clear that his party had given him free rein and that he would act if Angela Merkel failed in Brussels. The Bavarians are still in attack mode. The threat of a split between Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the CSU — and thus the possible collapse of the German government — is still hovering in the air.