Daily briefing

Europe has a serious shortage of heroes on migration

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Go easy on the eggnog. Source: DPA

It’s World Refugee Day, though you wouldn’t think it from the news.

Leaders are busy trying to keep the most vulnerable people at bay. Trump continues our education in what he means by fake news. In another tweet about Germany, he insisted crime is up thanks to migration. It’s down. But at least his tweet distracted people’s attention from the children being separated from their parents and put in cages at the US border with Mexico. No wonder the US is leaving the UN human rights council. Talk about a mockery of human rights.

The only good thing about a tweet criticizing Germany is it rallies support around Angela Merkel. And right now, she can take all the support she can get. She has a two-week deadline to organize a slew of alliances with leaders across Europe willing to take back refugees. That’s (no) thanks to pressure from Bavaria’s leader as well as her own interior minister who are anxious about elections in Bavaria and the rise of the Alternative for Germany, a party of the populist far right. The CSU’s new leader, Markus Söder, is in Linz with his state government to meet Austria’s conservative leader and keep the pressure on Ms. Merkel.

Feeling the heat, she is trying to drum up a bunch of European leaders willing to agree to take back refugees, ahead of the EU summit at the end of June. Last night seemed like a start, when Ms. Merkel conceded more than Germans wanted on a European budget, but wrung an agreement from Macron to take back refugees who first landed in France. This Sunday, Ms. Merkel will meet leaders from Austria, Italy, France, Greece, Bulgaria and Spain to work towards a European migration agreement, diplomats told DPA.

Now, Munich’s in a huff and Seehofer just canceled his appointment with Merkel… which means it must be good news? He was going to speak at their first public appearance since the migration issue spiked last week. It was an event to commemorate the victims of flight and expulsion all over the world. Seems like it’s easier to remember the dead than take care of the living.

But so much for heroes: Mr. Macron has done little to end the asylum stalemate in the EU, aside from feel-good sound bites. This is the same Macron who turned away the Aquarius last week. Hollow words and hard policies seem to be one of the rare things uniting Europe’s leaders right now.

China, China, China

They have worries further afar, like China. As a trade war threatens to develop between Beijing and Washington, Germany wants to keep a Chinese grid operator from buying a 20 percent stake in 50Hertz. Berlin says the company’s high-voltage network is critical infrastructure. Back off, Beijing.

But Germany’s spreading its wings, too: Lufthansa wants to swoop in and steal a piece of Norwegian airlines, the Nordic upstart offering eye-wateringly cheap trans-Atlantic fares. Germany’s flagship carrier is in talks with Norwegian Air Shuttle. Given how Lufthansa has struggled to integrate acquisitions in the past, maybe they should keep this one grounded.

One German taking on a challenge is Berlin’s newest ambassador, Emily Haber. She’s the first woman to lead the Washington embassy, a skilled diplomat, and the antithesis of Richard Grenell, Washington’s man in Berlin. She will present her credentials to President Donald Trump on Friday and the two will have plenty to talk about. She sees four major issues she wants to press ahead with, from the treaty with Iran to trade, plus spending on NATO, and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

There’s another tough job now open at the top of Audi, the German luxury carmaker, as the supervisory board at parent VW hunts to replace Rupert Stadler. It won’t be BMW’s chief developer; Klaus Fröhlich said in April he doesn’t want the job. In the past, there were rumors that Karl Thomas Neumann, boss of Opel, could be a candidate but he’s busy running a start-up in California. Oliver Blume of Porsche also said no last summer, Handelsblatt heard tell. The latest rumor is Luca de Meo, head of Seat of Spain, another VW division.

For now, we have Bram Schot, the sales chief who’s the interim Audi boss. Virtually unknown, he is a family man from Rotterdam who started at Audi in 2011 after stints heading commercial vehicles at Daimler and then the DaimlerChrysler/Mercedes-Benz business in Italy. He joined Audi’s board last September and will have his work cut out for him if he’s to keep the job, starting with limiting brand damage. We don’t know much else about him, apart from that he loves pizza.

Speaking of pizza-eating newbies, this is my first Daily Briefing. My colleague pointed out I look like I drink a bottle of red wine at lunch before launching into a rant. That’s not every day. I’m usually writing and editing and occasionally worrying about the state of the media.

But instead of a decent rant, I’m now seeing that Rupert Stadler, the Audi boss, is willing to testify – the most senior executive in the Dieselgate scandal so far. What will he say? We’ll know more tomorrow. And what’s to come – will other German car bosses fall like dominoes or will Stadler stroll back to his old job in a few months’ time, like Thomas Steg, the VW lobbyist who was briefly put on gardening leave after Monkeygate? Meanwhile, the word is that German managers, fearful of being tapped, are carrying second cellphones to keep it all on the DL. In fact, pass the wine.

On second thoughts, maybe not. Two hedgehogs suffered a serious hangover earlier this week in Erfurt. Police found them lying in playground downtown after the creatures drank an abandoned bottle of eggnog. They are now doing better. The weekend is coming but perhaps take it easy ’till then.

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