Austria, Germany, Italy form 'axis of willing' on migration

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2018

He went on to hold a meeting with Austria's chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, after which the two announced an "axis of the willing" between Austria, Germany and Italy to reduce illegal immigration.

Merkel's handling of the migrant crisis - which saw more than 1.6 million people arrive in Germany, starting in 2014, and helped propel the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) into parliament - has come back to haunt her in the last few weeks.

If the plan is enacted, migrants who had already registered in other European Union countries would be sent away from Germany's borders and returned to the initial country.

Previously, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a member of the CSU, had proposed his own "Masterplan for Migration", a blueprint for taking a tough line on the issue.

Seehofer has always been harshly critical of Merkel's decision to open German borders in mid-2015 to a mass influx of over one million asylum seekers, although the government has sharply restricted entries since.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the unveiling of the plan had been pushed back because "several points still need to be agreed".

"We must decide who comes to Europe, not the smugglers", said Kurz, who is due to meet with Seehofer on Wednesday.

Mr Seehofer rejected claims he had snubbed Germany's leader. Political observers say Merkel may rue the day she gave the nod to Seehofer's appointment as interior minister.

Veteran CSU politician Hans-Peter Friedrich stated in an interview on German television on Thursday that the CSU party "stood united behind Interior Minister Horst Seehofer" in the row with its allies, but there were no demands to end the cooperation with Angela Merkel.

Merkel said talks aimed at reaching agreement with Seehofer's party would continue.

Merkel's open-door policy for Germany has already been gradually scaled back and Christian Democrat General-Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely seen as a possible successor to Merkel, said the party's leadership supported her position.

Three years after the migration crisis erupted, the inflow has slowed dramatically but the coalition is still bickering over what would be a sustainable solution.

For decades the CSU - the Bavarian sister party of the CDU - has been in alliance with Mrs Merkel's conservatives.

Merkel has said it would be illegal for Germany to take such a unilateral step and it would damage attempts to shape a comprehensive European Union migration policy.

Merkel can draw some comfort from the positive reception her compromise got among CDU lawmakers, many of whom had earlier this week voiced at least some support for Seehofer's plan.

But demands from the populist and far-right leaning forces in Italy, Austria and elsewhere are complicating Merkel's push for European Union solidarity in dealing with immigration issues, an issue to be covered at a June 28-29 summit.

Other reports by iNewsToday