Sunday 22 July 2018

Merkel faces fresh crisis as rival rejects migrant deal

According to sources, Ms Merkel spoke to her executive committee of a
According to sources, Ms Merkel spoke to her executive committee of a "very serious" situation. Photo: Reuters

Abby Young-Powell

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was last night fighting for her political future after her interior minister rejected the migration deal she secured with her EU counterparts last week as "ineffective".

Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister and the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), said yesterday that he now saw "no alternative" but to turn back some migrants at the German border, a party source said.

Mr Seehofer, one of Ms Merkel's biggest political rivals, also said the matter was affecting the "credibility" of his role as party leader, hinting at a possible resignation.

Two weeks ago, he gave Ms Merkel an ultimatum to find a European solution to irregular migration by today, or he would turn migrants back at the border against her wishes.

After a two-day summit with EU leaders in Brussels last week, Ms Merkel believed she had struck such a deal.

Mr Seehofer, however, did not agree. After a two-hour meeting on Saturday night between Ms Merkel and Mr Seehofer, the two leaders met with their respective parties for separate meetings in Munich and Berlin last night.

According to sources, Ms Merkel spoke to her executive committee of a "very serious" situation.

If Mr Seehofer is not satisfied he could now deliver on his threat to close Germany's borders, forcing Ms Merkel to sack him, which would tear apart Germany's already shaky coalition government.

This could lead to fresh elections, which would likely further embolden the far-right and lead to political crisis in both Germany and Europe.

Alternatively, Mr Seehofer could voluntarily step down as interior minister.

Yesterday afternoon, Ms Merkel firmly reiterated her desire for a solution that is "not unilateral" and "not to the detriment of third parties", in an interview with German ZDF television.

However, she said on her way into the discussions with her party in Berlin yesterday afternoon that she had taken the CSU's issue into account.

"I want the CDU and CSU to work together, because we are a success story for our country," she said.

Tensions were high in Berlin last night as party talks continued. Michael Theurer, of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), said: "The mutual trust of CDU and CSU is more or less destroyed... and the government chaos produced harms Germany and its citizens."

The viability of the migration deal struck by Ms Merkel and other EU leaders this week came under particular scrutiny.

Ms Merkel circulated a document to her coalition after the summit saying that 14 countries had agreed "on a political level" to take back some migrants who had passed through other EU countries on their way to Germany. But the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary later said they had not signed the agreement.

Leaders agreed to set up "voluntary" control centres within the EU to process migrants. However, Austria, France, Germany and Italy did not commit to any immediate plans to open secure centres on their own soil.

Following the summit Ms Merkel admitted there was still "a lot of work to do to bridge the different views".

Germany's coalition government has been plagued by tensions since it was formed in February, four months after the German federal election last November.

Mr Seehofer blames his party losing seats to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) during the last election on Ms Merkel's open-door refugee policy.

With the Bavarian state elections due in October, Mr Seehofer fears the CSU could now lose its outright majority to the AfD. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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