Merkel gets ultimatum from hardline ally over migrants

Andrew Cummings
June 18, 2018

Merkel was due to meet with Italy's newly-minted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday, and the following day with French President Emmanuel Macron.

But the chancellor's pledge has been met with skepticism by some CSU politicians, who question the possibility of reaching an EU-wide agreement after several years of failed attempts.

Mrs Merkel has asked the CSU to give her two weeks to come up with bilateral deals with some countries, such as Italy and Greece, similar to one agreed between Turkey and the European Union in 2016.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits in a vehicle as she arrives for a leaders meeting of her Christion Democratic Union party at the party's headquarters in Berlin on Monday. The CSU lost thousands of voters to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in federal elections previous year, and is fearful of further losses.

At a meeting of his party's leadership in Munich on Monday, Seehofer suggested the plan could be introduced piecemeal, in order to avoid pre-empting Merkel's negotiations in Brussels.

He said he had only recently learnt that migrants who had already been denied asylum by Germany or been issued re-entry bans were still being allowed back in.

The CSU's top priority is a hard October state election in Bavaria in which it is trying to tamp down support for the anti-migration Alternative for Germany party. Migration is "a European challenge that requires a European answer", Merkel said in her weekly podcast released Saturday. That banished - if only for now - the spectre of Seehofer pushing through his proposal in defiance of the chancellor, which would risk bringing down her government.

"I believe it is worthwhile to keep CSU and CDU together". The Bild newspaper reported that they would approve plans for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the longtime party leader, to seal the borders to previously registered migrants, but would leave it to him to decide on the timing. Seehofer has said these migrants should be turned away at the German border whereas Merkel has said this can only happen with the agreement of the relevant European Union states. "The situation is serious but still solvable".

The migrant issue has come to a head this week after a new Italian government refused to let a ship carrying 629 migrants dock at its ports.

She also warned the minister, Horst Seehofer, against defying her, saying she is ultimately in charge of government policies.

Austria, governed by a center-right and far-right coalition, has also vowed to take a much tougher stand.

Merkel and Seehofer papered over the cracks ahead of last year's national election, but support for both parties still dropped significantly.

Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the June 28-29 EU summit.

Under current German law, anybody who lodges an asylum request at Germany's border is admitted to the country.

At the centre of the showdown between Merkel and Seehofer, who are bitter rivals after the chancellor's decision to allow nearly a million refugees into Germany three summers ago, is disagreement over whether to allow those who have already registered in another European Union country entry to Germany.

Merkel quickly made clear that she disagreed.

The CSU is more conservative than Merkel's CDU and its paramount aim is to maintain its dominance in Bavaria.

Other reports by iNewsToday