Merkel faces ultimatum from ally over migrants

by Garry Watts June 22, 2018, 1:23
Merkel faces ultimatum from ally over migrants

Mr Seehofer proposed last week to offer power to turn away undocumented migrants at the border if they have already been registered in another European Union country.

Merkel opposes such a unilateralist move as it would reverse her 2015 open-door policy and undermine her authority.

The CDU's Bavarian sister party and coalition partner has threatened to press ahead with its own plans without obtaining the chancellor's consent if no solution is found until then.

Speaking at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, following their talks at the Meseberg castle near Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they discussed various new initiatives to reform and strengthen the EU.

Earlier, Bild newspaper, citing unnamed sources from the CSU leadership, reported that the CSU would give Merkel two weeks, until an EU summit on June 28-29, to deliver a European solution on migrant policy before defying her by implementing his plan.

Merkel emphasized the need for Germany's conservative parties to stick together, but she and Seehofer may only have delayed a head-on clash.

Asked in Berlin whether her government can work well until the end of its term in 2021 and whether she is still in full control, Merkel replied: "Yes to both".

Getting all of the EU states on board for an overhaul of asylum practices and rules is "in my view one of the most decisive issues for European unity", the Christian Democrat chancellor said.

On Monday, reports emerged that Seehofer has agreed to give Merkel two weeks to come up with a solution, but the situation is still highly concerning for investors already anxious about politics in the European region.

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"We wish the chancellor success in this", he said.

"Our goal remains a European answer to these challenges", she said. "But we stand by our position that, if this does not succeed, turning people back immediately at the border must be possible".

A European solution "doesn't convince me", said Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soeder in a June 14 Bild Zeitung interview.

If Seehofer were to defy her and go ahead with his plans on Monday, Merkel would nearly certainly be forced to fire him.

Merkel is under strong pressure from her conservative allies to take a harder line on migration.

Most Germans support the moves according to opinion polls, while critics say Merkel's liberal migrant policies have bolstered far-right and populist parties at home and overseas. About 700,000 people sought asylum in EU countries a year ago, down 44 per cent from 2016, according to figures released Monday by the European Asylum Support Agency.

Crime has fallen off dramatically in Germany, with the country's internal ministry reporting last month that criminal offenses in Germany totaled 5.76 million in 2017, the lowest number since 1992, leading to the lowest crime rate for the country in more than 30 years.

Merkel has cautiously come around in recent weeks, but she may not have much political room to manoeuvre further.

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