Francois Lenoir / Reuters Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at a European Union leaders summit over migration in Brussels, Belgium, March 17, 2016.

The Strongwoman of Europe

Germany's Principled Leadership

Almost a year after Europe’s refugee crisis began, the pressure is still on to find a solution. On March 18, Turkey and the European Union, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the forefront, agreed on a deal: for every illegal Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece, one legal Syrian refugee already in Turkey would be resettled in the EU. Humanitarian agencies such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children quickly condemned the plan, criticizing it as an unethical and illegal attempt to prevent refugees from migrating to western Europe. Although the deal has raised hopes that the EU might have finally found a way to reduce the flow of migrants, it has also dented its reputation as an inclusive defender of human rights.

In Germany, the deal has divided public opinion. Politicians on the left argue that it has damaged Merkel’s position as the EU’s guiding moral compass on migration; politicians on the right argue that it’s too little, too late. But for now, at least, disappointment at the deal doesn’t seem to have affected the chancellor’s political future. Despite her party’s poor showing in recent state elections, she looks set to extend her decadelong rule as Germany’s leader.

A protest against the EU-Turkey migrant deal in Malaga, southern Spain, March 2016. The banner reads,
A protest against the EU-Turkey migrant deal in Malaga, southern Spain, March 2016. The banner reads, "Welcome refugees. No to the European Union-Turkey deal".
Outside of Germany, the deal has been met with similar anger. Merkel is widely regarded as the only EU leader to have taken a proactive approach toward solving the refugee crisis, but her European counterparts claim that she cut the deal with Turkey without consulting them, leaving them scrambling to assess the deal’s legality.

This isn’t the first time in Merkel’s tenure that tensions between Germany and the rest of the continent have been high. Yet the extent of the discord created by the refugee crisis has left the EU far from living up to its name. Largely because of weak nerves on the part of her allies, who have abdicated leadership on the issue, Merkel has once

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