Merkel settles migration row with Bavarian ally

Roman Schwartz
July 4, 2018

But by Sunday evening it was looking as though she had bested one of her harshest critics on migration, Horst Seehofer, the head of Merkel's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and her current interior minister.

The future of Merkel's governing coalition between the CDU-CSU alliance and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) appeared to hang by a thread, as media slammed what they called a reckless game of chicken.

Germany's constitution prevents federal ministers from outright quitting their positions, and must request to be dismissed by the German President.

After the Bavarians' relentless pressure on her, European leaders agreed new measures Friday to reduce immigration and so-called "secondary migration" of asylum-seekers between countries.

In cases where no such bilateral agreements exist, the asylum seekers would be sent back across the border "on the basis of an agreement with Austria" that was to be negotiated, it said.

Officials from the Bavaria-based CSU accused Merkel of rejecting several compromise proposals made by Seehofer to heal the rift with her own CDU.

The CSU party boss and now the head of Germany's newly christened interior and homeland ministry has deemed inadequate the European Union deals reached by Merkel allowing the return of some asylum seekers.

The last-minute compromise capped an unprecedented challenge to Ms. Merkel's authority after she vetoed the interior minister's plan to turn back refugees at the border, and he countered that he would go ahead with it anyway. He insisted the CSU doesn't want to break up the conservative partnership.

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Infighting began after Seehofer pledged to send back asylum seekers at Germany's border if they're already registered in another European Union country.

The Social Democrats, who rejected a similar plan three years ago, withheld their immediate consent and European Union states must also agree to take migrants back.

They argued such zones would not limit the number of migrants given that most were fleeing wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan and therefore entitled to asylum in Germany.

Long angered by the influx of mostly Muslim refugees crossing via Austria into his Alpine homeland, Merkel's hard-line interior minister has threatened to openly defy her in what could end as a spectacular political suicide attack.

German Chancellor Angela Markel on Monday balked on her signature immigration policies in a bid to stay in power, agreeing to create border camps for migrants and enforce tighter border control.

Public anger and fear about the newcomers has given rise to the far-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which entered parliament past year and threatens Seehofer's CSU in Bavarian state polls in October.

"As such the spirit of partnership in the European Union is preserved and at the same time an important step to order and control secondary migration and that's why I think that we have found a good compromise after tough negotiations and hard days".

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