POLITICAL OVERVIEW: European Court of Justice rules on migration crisis, German automobile industry suspected of cartel formation

Chancellor Merkel and CEOs of the automobile industry in 2013 Photo Credit: RudolfSimon

In a ruling which may have far-reaching consequences on the future handling of refugees, the European Court of Justice upheld a countries’ right to deport asylum-seekers to the first EU county they enter. The court ruled that the EU’s Dublin regulation, under which refugees must seek asylum in the first member state they enter, still applied during the unprecedented inflow in late 2015. Yet, the court also ruled that Germany acted not in violation of the regulation when it did not return refugees to the member states they first entered.

The decision reaches Germany as Martin Schulz’ has begun to attack Chancellor Merkel on her performance on migration. Schulz attacked Merkel on the grounds that a repeat of the situation in 2015 should never happen again. Several public appearances with strong words from the SPD candidate resulted in heavy handed replies and accusations from the conservative CDU, but also some of the oppositional parties that condemned the obvious campaign move.

Overall, the situation of Schulz couldn’t be any worse. None of his big campaign moves have worked out and recognition for his policy positions has been very very limited. With so little success, him resorting to attacking Merkel on the migration issue looks desperate and doomed to fail. Poll numbers reflecting his latest comments aren’t in yet, but initial reactions don’t seem too positive.

After both Daimler and Volkswagen issued voluntary declarations concerning agreements between the five industry giants VW, Porsche, Audi, BMW and Daimler that could violate competition rules, the European commission is investigating. In the declarations Daimler and Volkswagen admitted to coordinating their strategies concerning technology, delivery and markets in several working groups. According to experts the companies will face extensive penalty payments. Green party politicians have called for a special meeting of the Transport committee for transparency on the „manipulations of the automobile cartel.“ According to the FDP party leader Christian Lindner the suspicions are shocking and a confirmation of the suspicions should not remain without consequences.

Automobile industry leaders currently are refraining from any public comment political leaders from the German government are also not acting tough on the issue, yet. Still, Minister for Transport Alexander Dobrindt has been increasingly hawkish on Diesel-gate, the use of so-called defeat devices in diesel engines that allow to cheat in exhaust fumes testing. Just today, Dobrindt banned the current version of Porsche’s flagship SUV model Cayenne from registration in Germany, effectively halting the sale of the car type. Similar bans on models from other producers might follow shortly.

For Angela Merkel, the situation could spell trouble, as it reflects badly on the amount of influence the car industry had politically, particularly on the CDU/CSU part of the government.

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