The chancellor promised Germans that she’d handle the refugee crisis. Her preference is for a European solution. But whether she succeeds will be determined by a series of crucial meetings over the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, the heads of the CDU and CSU met for two hours at the chancellery. No statements followed.
It's no secret that conservatives in the union disagree about how to handle the refugee crisis. Angela Merkel is holding firm to her proposal of a European solution.
The leader of the CSU, Horst Seehofer, doesn't believe it will work, and is demanding a national solution, including an upper limit on the number of refugees Germany will accept.
The number of refugees on the Austrian-German border is currently going down. A spokesman for the interior ministry in Berlin said the numbers are now in the "middle three-figure area." But the CSU attributes this more to the bad weather than any success of Merkel's policy.
On Friday, Seehofer will meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Merkel's greatest adversaries at the EU level. There was more than enough for the party leaders to discuss during their meeting in the chancellery. And in the end - differences aside - their meeting served to provide support for Merkel in the face of the coming challenges.
Paris: Strengthening the Franco-German axis
On Friday, Merkel will travel to Paris to consult with President Francois Hollande. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel wants to coordinate closely ahead of the EU summit next week.
There are three major areas she is focusing on: Protecting the EU's external borders, fighting the cause of the mass migration movement in the countries of origin and reducing the number of illegal immigrants.
The current bottleneck of refugees in Greece and the Western Balkans will also be an important factor at the meeting. The pictures from these areas show the necessity of a common European response to the crisis. Simply closing internal borders out of pure national interest only adds to the burden of other countries, such as Greece.
Brussels: Summit with Turkey
On Monday, Brussels is hosting the special EU-Turkey summit that had to be postponed after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had to suddenly cancel a meeting set for February 18 and 19 in the wake of a terror attack.
The EU-Turkey action plan agreed at the end of November will be evaluated at the summit. The plan aims to "clearly and permanently decrease" the number of immigrants entering the EU illegally via Turkey.
In addition, the plan includes measures to fight human trafficking networks. EU states pledged billions in funds to aid Turkey. The date of the summit also coincides with an ultimatum set by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. On February 21, the minister said that if the plan didn't work, other measures would have to be taken to protect the Schengen zone borders. In recent weeks, there has been repeated discussion of shifting the outer border in the Balkan region, so that Greece would de facto no longer be part of the Schengen area.
Brussels: Setting the course
A further EU summit is slated for March 17 and 18. The topic up for debate: A common European refugee policy and agreement on a course of action. In addition, the normal operating conditions of the Schengen area are to be reinstated.
But at this point it is far from clear whether Merkel and the EU Commission will be able to reach the desired consensus. By this time, Merkel has said that she will be able to draw some conclusions about the effectiveness of current efforts to curb and better control the flow of refugees.
The Sunday prior to this summit - March 13 - will see a sort of "Super Sunday" in Germany with elections in three states. The conservative CDU/CSU is already preparing for massive losses due to voter disgust with the way the refugee crisis is being managed.