Angela Merkel struck a deal on migration that saved her own skin but threw the EU into disarray.
Within hours of the German chancellor announcing that she and her harshest domestic critic on migration — Interior Minister Horst Seehofer — had reached a compromise to end a standoff that threatened to bring down the government, her neighbors were up in arms.
Austria and Italy said they plan to reintroduce border controls if Berlin goes ahead with plans to establish so-called transit zones along Germany’s southern border to allow for accelerated deportations of refugees not entitled to seek asylum in the country.
If they do so, it would put the survival of the EU’s cherished Schengen area of border-free travel at risk.
“Should this agreement thus become the German government’s position, we feel compelled to take action … and the federal government is therefore prepared to take special measures to protect our southern borders,” said Austria’s leaders — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, the latter two from the far-right Freedom Party — in a statement Tuesday.
Diplomats said that Merkel’s move could trigger internal border closures across the bloc.