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    Bleak Future for Europe? Germany Struggling to Put Out Fires at Home

    © AP Photo / Jan Bauer, file
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    This year has been a tough one for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As scandals and challenges keep piling up, it will only get worse for the ruling party, the grand coalition and the country itself.

    Germany managed to put out some fires, like the Greek crisis, while others appear to be spreading: the unprecedented influx of refugees and asylum seekers, the embarrassing Volkswagen diesel gate, the spillover of the FIFA bribe scandal and recent allegations that Germany spied on its allies. Of these, the refugee crisis poses by far the most significant challenge.

    "The refugee crisis, in particular, has made Merkel vulnerable to the cracks that are forming in her coalition," journalist David Francis noted in an article titled "Is Germany, Europe's Rock, Starting to Crumble?".

    The Social Democratic Party (SPD), a major political force in the country and a member of the ruling coalition, has chastised Merkel for offering unsound solutions to the refugee problem. Moreover, SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has already announced his plans to challenge Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in the upcoming elections.

    However, the Social Democratic Party is not Merkel's key problem. Her own fellow party members in the government and beyond seem to disagree with the chancellor over the right course of action.

    Last Friday, "Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said refugees would only be given restricted asylum, in the form of a one-year renewable residence permit, and would not be allowed to bring relatives to Germany for two years," Francis wrote for Foreign Policy.

    De Maizière was backed by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, as well as the CDU's sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union. At the same time, Merkel's chief of staff sent a clear message that the chancellor did not support de Maizière's plan.

    For its part, the Volkswagen emissions scandal could gravely complicate the EU's bargaining power in a major trade deal between the United States and the European Union, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

    "Malfeasance by VW could give the United States leverage in the trade talks between Europe and the United States that have been ongoing since 2013," Francis said, citing consultant Patrick Hillmann.

    In addition, the German government has not yet responded to the allegations that Berlin spied on diplomats from Austria, Croatia, Denmark and Poland. The response might be hard to come up with since in 2013 at the height of the NSA surveillance scandal Merkel noted that friends don't spy on friends.

    Related:

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    German Ministers Preparing 'Putsch' Against Merkel – German Magazine
    Pledges and Promises: The Reality of Europe's Refugee Crisis
    German Government in Hot Water Over Refugee Crisis
    Tags:
    Volkswagen emissions scandal, refugee crisis, spying scandal, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), European Union, Angela Merkel, Europe, Germany
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