Migration Fight Shakes German Gov't 06/17 10:47
BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's interior minister insisted that his party has no
intention of bringing down Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government, amid
uncertainty Sunday over chances of a solution to a bitter standoff over
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is calling for Germany to turn back at its
border migrants who have registered as asylum-seekers in other European
countries. Merkel opposes unilateral action, arguing that it would weaken the
28-nation European Union. The issue has escalated into a high-stakes power
Seehofer leads the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union party, the sister
party to Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union. His party holds a
leadership meeting Monday which could authorize Seehofer to push through his
If he actually does so unilaterally in defiance of the chancellor, many
observers believe Merkel would likely have to fire him --- which in turn could
effectively end her current governing coalition and the conservative parties'
decades-old alliance in national politics. The two parties govern with the
center-left Social Democrats.
However it ends, the spat has laid bare the limits of Merkel's authority in
a fractious government that took office in March after nearly six months of
The CSU's top priority is a difficult October state election in Bavaria in
which it is trying to tamp down support for the anti-migration Alternative for
Bavarian governor Markus Soeder and the party's top federal lawmaker,
Alexander Dobrindt, have been even more vehement than Seehofer in demanding
immediate action on migration. Soeder has talked of a need to end "asylum
"No one in the CSU has an interest in bringing down the chancellor,
dissolving the CDU-CSU joint parliamentary group, or blowing up the coalition,"
Seehofer was quoted as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. But "we want
finally to have a sustainable solution for turning back refugees at our
Seehofer and Merkel have long had an awkward relationship. In his previous
job as Bavarian governor, Seehofer was one of the leading critics of Merkel's
decision in 2015 to leave Germany's borders open as migrants streamed across
Merkel has pointed to a June 28-29 EU summit at which migration will be a
key topic as she insists on holding talks with other countries about it.
Migration "is a European challenge that needs a European answer," she said
in her weekly video message Saturday. "I think this is issue is one of the most
decisive for the cohesion of Europe."
Mike Mohring, the CDU leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, told the
daily Die Welt that he expects the CSU to give Merkel two weeks to find a
European solution. "Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer simply must pull
together," he said, warning that the alternative would be "chaos."
In an op-ed piece for the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung released
later Sunday, Seehofer said he "must have the right to turn back" people who
aren't entitled to enter. But he said the aim should be a "consensual solution"
and wrote that it was "of decisive significance that the EU summit at the end
of June finally makes decisions that recognize Germany's burdens in migrant
Merkel already has meetings scheduled Monday with Italian Premier Giuseppe
Conte --- the head of a new, populist government whose interior minister has
pledged to deport tens of thousands of migrants --- and Tuesday with French
President Emmanuel Macron.
On Sunday, the Bild newspaper reported that Merkel is working on a "special
summit" before the EU summit with countries particularly affected by migration.
The German government said no special EU summit is planned, and that would
be a matter for EU leaders in Brussels, but "of course the German government is
holding talks with various member states and the (EU) Commission" about
immigration in Europe.