German conservatives urge Merkel, Seehofer to settle migrant dispute

03 July, 2018, 05:57 | Author: Carlos George
  • Germany secures deal for return of failed asylum claimants: reports

Party sources said Sunday evening that German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was planning to offer his resignation both from the cabinet and as CSU leader, after unexpectedly re-escalating his standoff with Chancellor Angela Merkel over her asylum policy.

The flashpoint issue was Seehofer's demand to order German border police to turn back asylum seekers already registered elsewhere in the European Union, and his threat to do so against Merkel's wishes.

Merkel reiterated her position that if countries start turning migrants away at national borders unilaterally, it would cause neighbouring countries to close their borders and jeopardize the border-free movement the Europe's so-called Schengen-zone.

Although she called the standoff "very serious", Ms. Merkel underlined her support for Germany's negotiation position with European Union partners, and again argued that this would be weakened if Berlin opts for a unilateral migration policy.

The opposition pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) said they supported steps against such migration within the European Union but also took a snipe, saying the deal's effectiveness remained "completely open".

Seehofer offered to quit as interior minister and as leader of the CSU during a marathon party meeting on Sunday, but was later persuaded by CSU colleagues to meet with Merkel one more time and attempt to resolve the disagreement, Reuters reported.

Despite tendering his resignation, the interior minister said he wanted to meet with Merkel on Monday before making a final decision.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

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"Horst Seehofer is not concerned with finding a solution to migration policy; he wants to open the door to right-wing populism and overthrow the chancellor", she said. But earlier, Bavaria's premier Markus Soeder, mindful of October regional elections in which he faces a stiff challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), was positive. "Because we are a success story for Germany".

Merkel has also confirmed that a good compromise was reached, with her party's chairwoman, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, saying the deal will prevent migrants registered elsewhere from entering Germany.

Bernd Riexinger of the opposition far-left Die Linke party spoke of "mass internment camps" as proof that "humanity got lost along the way" and urged Merkel's other coalition ally, the Social Democrats (SPD), to reject the plan. The number of asylum-seekers fleeing to Europe is back to pre-2015 levels, but the debate over migration has continued to create political turmoil, including a possible split in Germany's ruling coalition if a deal between her Christian Democrats and its sparring Bavarian sister party could not be reached.

Her CDU and its sister party CSU suffered heavy losses in the country's federal elections previous year while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party scored record gains and entered parliament for the first time.

Yesterday afternoon, Ms Merkel firmly reiterated her desire for a solution that is "not unilateral" and "not to the detriment of third parties", in an interview with German ZDF television.

A chastened Seehofer said: "I am glad that this agreement has been reached".

Mr Seehofer and Mrs Merkel, who have long had a hard relationship, have sparred over migrant policy on and off since 2015, but the current dispute has erupted as Germany is seeing far fewer newcomers than in 2015.

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