Germany migrants: Interior minister Seehofer will not resign

Ivan Schwartz
July 4, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached a compromise deal Monday on migration with her rebellious interior minister, Horst Seehofer, to defuse a bitter row that had threatened her government.

Given that the CDU and SPD without the CSU would be short of only two seats in parliament, she could hope for support for individual policies from the Greens, liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and possibly even the CSU in some cases.

And this week that split - personified by German interior minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer - brought Germany's government to the brink of collapse.

Last November, when Merkel was negotiating her fourth coalition, the long-time chancellor told German broadcaster ZDF she was "very sceptical" about leading a minority government and would rather call new elections.

Seehofer and Merkel are in a dispute over Germany's asylum policy. They will be returned to whichever European Union country they first registered, provided Germany has a bilateral agreement with that country to return asylum seekers.

In a meeting with his party leaders on Sunday night, Seehofer offered to resign from his ministerial role and party leadership, reports said.

Despite the drama over Mr. Seehofer's resignation threat on Sunday, several political analysts said the most likely outcome was for both parties to walk back and find a last-minute compromise.

The centre-left Social Democrats, another partner in the coalition, must also accept the deal along with neighbouring Austria.

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In high-stakes crisis talks on Monday, Ms. Merkel put to rest for now a unsafe row with a longtime rival, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, that had threatened the survival of her shaky 100-day-old coalition.

Seehofer wants to turn back at the border asylum-seekers who have already registered in another European Union country but Merkel is adamant that Germany shouldn't take unilateral actions that affect other EU nations. His ultimatum forced Ms. Merkel to seek a European Union mini-summit the previous weekend and diverted the scheduled European Union summit this past weekend to an all-night crisis meeting on the migration issue.

CSU leaders are divided over how to face down a challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) in October's regional election.

While Merkel is quite popular in her country, with 54 percent of Germans polled saying they would like for her to remain chancellor, the appearance that she was strong-armed has given some political analysts pause over her continued influence.

Migrants would be held in new detention centres, with those found to have first-entered the European Union in, for instance, Italy, turned back "on the basis of an agreement with the Republic of Austria".

Ahead of a hard Bavarian state election in October, the CSU is determined to show it is tough on migration.

The "Free State" with its beer-and-lederhosen Alpine traditions, powerful industries and impenetrable dialect has a more conservative bent than other German regions. "I have not studied it in detail but at first glance - and I have asked the legal services to look at it - it seems to me to be in line with the law", Juncker told a news conference in Strasbourg.

Other reports by GizPress

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