On Friday, European Union leaders agreed to a deal to reduce the inflow of migrants from Africa. Later the same day, European Union leaders broke the deal.
It's a ludicrous situation which only the EU could produce. While the paper-thin agreement clarifies that EU states will establish migrant holding facilities for new migrants traveling from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, it doesn't explain how. As the BBC notes, "The [migrant] centers are meant be set up by EU states on a voluntary basis, but there are no details on which nations might host them or take in refugees."
What a shock.
When one considers European politics, it's not hard to understand what's going on here. Put simply, the big two powers — France and Germany — are caught between their desire for greater EU integration and rising nationalist populists elected by voters who believe their interests are being jeopardized by EU policies.
Most obviously, Italians just elected a government deeply opposed to further immigration. That is a particular problem for German Chancellor Angela Merkel because her government rests on the support of a junior coalition partner, the CSU party. And the CSU is demanding Merkel turn away migrants who have previously been registered elsewhere in Europe — which, with Germany deep inside continental Europe, is the vast majority of migrants.
Unfortunately for Merkel, one of the top first registration locations, Italy, isn't willing to play ball. The Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, just told the magazine Der Spiegel that he has no interest in backing down (the article photo of Salvini tells you all you everything about how Salvini views Merkel's predicament).
In turn, while the CSU seems to have temporarily accepted the Friday deal, when it inevitably becomes clear that the deal won't stop migration toward Germany, the CSU could well snap back against Merkel and collapse her government.
The central issue here is that the EU is increasingly defined by divergent national interests. Where the Germans and French could once corral their smaller government partners into collective action, populist impulses against immigration in those nations mean their governments have no incentive to yield to Germany. That's why Europe has got the fake deal it got today: It's the best solution the EU could get.
Or put another way, it's no solution at all.