Merkel's diplomacy marathon

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met last week with the leaders of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia after also visiting Italy, Estonia and the Czech Republic last week in preparation for the EU summit in mid-September. The chancellor is seeking dialogue with her harshest critics in the Union, some commentators write in praise. Others find her EU tour presumptuous.

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Polityka (PL) /

EU not talking about refugees for now

Brussels and the states of Central and Eastern Europe have postponed dealing with the refugee issue, Polityka comments:

“No common standpoint can be reached in the refugee crisis at present, despite various rounds of talks on the issue. The Visegrád states reject the idea of Brussels controlling the crisis centrally. ... The recommendations from Brussels have backfired: the Central and Eastern European countries have only further sealed themselves off from the refugees. As long as the deal with Turkey remains binding and the number of refugees isn't as high as it was last year, the conflict will be left on hold. But sooner or later it is bound to resurface.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Merkel doesn't command, she listens

With her tour of Europe Merkel has reaffirmed that the EU is first and foremost about dialogue, Die Welt comments:

“Angela Merkel seems to have understood that the 'business as usual' approach won't get her very far here. Europe can't be saved through decisions made by the leading states at half past three in the morning in a conference room in Brussels. This is why it was right that Angela Merkel opted for a smaller format, a discussion format. She is not avoiding the issue but touring Europe - not as a commander but as a listener who has to put up with a lot of criticism. This tour is a good first step. The EU is not 'Brussels' but the entirety of its member states, including those that are breaking rank. The German chancellor has shown that she respects this. She has thus reaffirmed one of the greatest advantages of the EU: that although it is a power structure it is also a community for discussion and negotiation.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Chancellor pushing Brussels onto the sidelines

With her preliminary discussions regarding the EU summit Angela Merkel has assumed a role to which she is not entitled, political scientist Sergio Fabbrini fumes in Il Sole 24 Ore:

“In the EU strategically important political decisions are de facto taken by the head of state of the biggest country in the Union, which Chancellor Angela Merkel controls. A worrying development. Not just because Merkel's position is only legitimised by the constitution of her own country, but also because this inevitably undermines the community's institutions and decision-making processes. … Merkel has shifted the centre of decision-making to Berlin and pushed Brussels onto the sidelines.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Merkel will be careful not to criticise Warsaw

The German chancellor is also unlikely to be critical of the Polish PiS government during her visit to Warsaw today, Gazeta Wyborcza believes:

“The opposition MPs and the members of the [anti-PiS civic movement] Kod have been surprised by the lack of warnings and protests coming from Berlin in recent months. True, some German politicians have voiced reservations about the paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal. But now there's even peace on that front. ... Why? Because everything that happens in Poland now works in the Germans' favour. All they have to do is stop focusing on what the Polish politicians say and pay attention to what they actually do instead. And that plays right into the hands of the Germans. ... For example, the government's flagship project - child benefit - helps the German economy by stimulating consumption in Poland - and by extension imports from Germany like used cars and food products.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

Good that Prague has not given in to pressure

Angela Merkel met with protest from opponents of her refugee policy during her visit to Prague on Thursday. And for good reason, Echo24 writes:

“Similar protests took place in Tallinn. The Orbán government in Hungary even wants to hold a referendum on the refugee quotas this autumn. ... The main reason for that is the arrogance with which Germany had the EU interior ministers push through quotas for the distribution of 160,000 asylum seekers in Greece and Italy last year. That said, Merkel is practically the only German politician to have shown what could be described as respect for the country's neighbours to the east. ... In any case it was good that Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka - who's generally not what you'd call pugnacious - clearly stated in the chancellor's presence that Prague is not only unhappy with the quotas, but also and more importantly with the transference of further competences on asylum policy to Brussels.”

ABC (ES) /

Eastern Europe wants to avoid integration problems

If the states of Eastern Europe are refusing to take in refugees it is because they see what is happening in Western Europe, ABC writes:

“These countries see the huge coexistence problems in Western European countries and don't want to import them. … Merkel has seen for herself that a large part of Europe rejects her plans for them to take in immigrants who don't want to integrate and whose cultural and religious values are seen as incompatible with a democratic and open society. … In the West a different wind was blowing: all those who want a multicultural society mobilized there. … So there we have them: the militant left that gets angry about crucifixes in classrooms and the so-called moderate Muslims that somehow never manage to mobilise against the massacres carried out by their radical religious brothers. … Western Europe's politically correct media machine is trying to stamp out France's initial reaction to this invasion of repressive symbols in its public spaces. In Eastern Europe driven by a sense of national self-preservation they are determined to avoid the same fate.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Time for a positive narrative on Europe

If all the near future holds is ongoing conflict over the current crises the people will become even more disenchanted with Europe than they are already, the Irish Times warns with an eye to Merkel's European tour:

“Worthy policy initiatives are to be welcomed, if indeed they are more than pious words. The danger over the next two years is that the EU will become mired in introspection, preoccupied by the minutiae and undoubtedly bitter rows that will accompany the Brexit negotiations, and unable to shake the pessimism and scepticism among voters that the Brexit debate has fed. The EU's leaders need above all to articulate a new big-picture, meta-narrative, a new 'meaning' or 'vision thing' that goes beyond the immediate crises of migration, terrorism, the euro, or Brexit.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Model pupil Estonia to show the way

Õhtuleht explains what is really behind Merkel's visit to Tallinn this Wednesday and Thursday:

“The fact that Estonia will hold the EU Council presidency next year - and will thus have its own two bits to add on the Brexit - is not the only motivation for her visit. As one of Europes' model pupils, Estonia is expected to set a good example for the other Eastern European members, which have taken an unruly stance on Merkel's policy. In addition, Estonia is a tried and tested partner in security matters, so that this time too the discussions dealt with the continuation of the sanctions against Russia. What's more, Angela Merkel's visit sends a signal to all those who see Tallinn as a 'suburb of Saint Petersburg', just as US Vice President Joe Biden reassured the heads of the Baltic states in Riga that Nato will not break its promises.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

"Ms Europe" holds up a mirror to the Czechs

Angela Merkel's visit to Prague today gives the Czechs a chance to clarify their own position, Hospodářské noviny comments:

“This time the most powerful woman of the world, in the shape of the German chancellor, is not coming to reaffirm that Czech-German relations are better than ever. She is coming to ask the Czech Republic's political representatives just how traditionally European they feel nowadays. … The answer Ms Merkel receives in Prague won't have a major impact for either the EU or Germany. But it will be crucial for Czech society's future way of life. 'Ms Europe' could help us to find a clear answer to the Kantian question: we know more or less where we come from. Who we are and where we are heading, however, is not so easy to say. Perhaps the big mirror Merkel will hold up to us in Prague will help us to find a meaningful answer. ”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Merkel has written off the UK

The fact that Angela Merkel deliberately left the UK out of her Europe tour is worrying, NRC Handelsblad notes:

“The German Chancellor is assuming the role of Europe's unofficial leader more than ever since the departure of the British and in view of Hollande's weakness. With the backing of the other EU member states Merkel is demonstratively ignoring British Prime Minister Theresa May in all the consultations. This can be interpreted as a sign that the United Kingdom has already been set aside. From the perspective of the European project this is understandable. But as regards future cooperation, which is vital not just in economic matters but also on social and military issues, this is not a clever strategy.”

Respekt (CZ) /

Chancellor should explain her course

The German chancellor only has herself to blame for her poor image in the Czech Republic, the weekly paper Respekt points out:

“For example the fact that she has left her visit to Prague so late. Doubtless she has a busy agenda. But if she is seeking a complex 'European' solution to the refugee crisis she should have invested more energy in communicating with the rest of Europe. And not just with the politicians, but with the public too. She could have given an extended interview on Czech TV and explained her policy. This would have taken the wind out of the sails of the Czech politicians who are spreading half-truths and lies about her.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Czechs unfair to Merkel

Merkel has unfairly been cast as the Czech Republic's worst enemy, Hospodářské noviny writes in defence of the chancellor:

“This opposition is incomprehensible. What other German politician could be a better partner for us as chancellor? This is not about her being able to order schnitzels and beer in Czech. The Czechs couldn't care less about Merkel's empathy for small European countries, they even insult her for her refugee policy. ... People like [ex-president] Václav Klaus who support the AfD should ask themselves when German nationalism has ever been good for the Czechs in the past. We don't have to agree with Merkel. But booing her and wishing for her downfall certainly won't do any good.”