The migration debate has intensified in Germany in recent years, after Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to open the door to people fleeing the conflict in Syria and other warzones. Bavaria and its conservative leadership have been at the forefront of efforts to turn that policy around and stem the flow of migrants. Insider's Sophie Claudet spoke to Raphael Bossong, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and asked him to what extent other regions were likely to adopt Bavaria's hardline approach.
**Raphael Bossong **
It's a complex picture, Germany has 16 States and they do maintain a different profile, each of them. Some conservative govern States are close to the Bavarian position, particularly in the East, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, but that's really not all there is. So you can see moves in various regions to go in that direction, but I wouldn't say it's a uniform trend. For example, one of the key points of this new master plan on migration is this key project of the CSU Interior Minister, which is to create these transit centres or transit process centres to - you know - deport migrants, and so far 12 out of the 16 States have not signed up to this.
We understand that there is also a regional election coming up in Bavaria, which is probably also why the CSU pushed for tougher immigration rules. They're afraid of AFD, the far-right party, having a win in this upcoming election. Let's go back to AFD. Is it progressing nationally like it was? It did surge a couple of years ago. Where is it standing? Especially when it comes to immigration.
** Raphael Bossong**
Well, unfortunately the AFD maintains a strong profile, and they've gained some more percentage points in opinion polls in the election results. So, depending on the poll, you see them between 15 to up to 20 percent. That is rather significant, maybe not totally out of the ordinary if you compare it with other European countries - the Netherlands, Austria, and so on and so forth - but that is the potential there is, yes.
What Bavaria is doing, when it comes to migration, is not very different from what other European countries are doing. What is striking is it seems European countries are going at it alone. There was this agreement reached back in June at the EU level, but when it comes to migration national interest is stronger.
The European summit at the end of June led to a very shallow or paper compromise, and there are so many questions of how this is actually going to be put into practice. So in the longer term it's really still a problem that nobody really trusts anymore the mutual commitment that everybody really will follow a European solution and that there will be actually a practical compromise, not just a paper compromise. So, yes, there is the temptation to say "We have to go at it alone", and countries like Hungary, that have pursued this line for a long time, now claim: look, we're victorious, everyone is following their approach, and unfortunately they have a point so far. I hope we'll get out of this but right now this is the temptation that many countries are taking and saying: first we have to control our borders, we have to toughen up our laws, and then we'll be a less attractive destination for migration.
As part of this EU deal, back in June, on migration, there are still things you think will work out?
There were two main proposals, the one to create external centres on the European neighbourhood. I don't think that's going to fly, no neighbour country is ready to do that. The other was to create a new system to redistribute boat migrants arriving in Euroepan countries, some kind of beefed up hotspots. And that's really the one thing Italy wants... and this is something that should be made to work very soon. The European Commission has presented a proposal and now we need a coalition of five or six European member states to make this work on a voluntary basis. It doesn't look very likely at the moment, but I hope political will will materialise so that we can really avoid the next major crisis in autumn, and I think that's essential as the next step..
Some things can still be resolved and should still be resolved at the EU level?
Yes, and we really need to use the summer to have at least a coalition of five or six states to take those migrants - and there are not that many any more - that arrive be boat, to Italy, to Greece, to Spain and to restribute them in a different manner, that in the past.