Ahead of Macron meeting, Merkel insists migration needs 'European answer'

Gladys Abbott
June 19, 2018

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has backed down from a threat to bypass Chancellor Angela Merkel in a disagreement over immigration policy, bringing reprieve to Merkel's biggest political crisis to date.

In an unprecedented split between the CDU and CSU, Seehofer has openly defied Merkel with a demand to allow border police to turn back migrants who lack valid identity papers or are already registered in another European Union country.

While Merkel would welcome a reprieve from an immediate crisis in her coalition, which also includes the Social Democrats, such a move would pile on pressure to deliver an European Union deal. "Or they are unable to and we will return, and I don't hesitate to say so, to turbulent times for the euro zone and for the European Union more widely".

In turn, Merkel praised Seehofer's "master-plan" by calling the document "a good foundation" for resolving the existing migration policy issues.

It seems to have dawned on Seehofer that if Germany sends back refugees who are registered elsewhere, a country such as Italy with its new anti-immigrant government might stop registering them, as it did at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015.

Read the full story at the BBC.

Ms Merkel said she would report back on July 1 on the results of her negotiations.

In that scenario, Merkel could lead a minority government with the third party in the coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), or call fresh elections that would likely benefit only the AfD, he said.

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Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel's liberal stance.

Macron past year outlined his vision for a stronger, more united Europe as a forceful reply to the far-right and isolationist National Front he defeated at the polls.

As interior minister, Seehofer has drawn up a 63-point plan for tackling migration to Germany.

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.

Instead, Merkel wants to find a common European solution at the EU summit in Brussels.

On Monday the foreign affairs minister, SPD lawmaker Heiko Maas, tweeted a strong defense of Merkel and a Europe-wide response to migration: "The EU stands for a promise that has made Europe a place of longing worldwide". Merkel believes it is "in Germany's interest" to reach an agreement on managing migration "in close partnership with our European neighbors".

It comes after Merkel's coalition partners threatened to start turning some migrants away at the German border.

In Brussels, the European Union asylum office said Monday the number of people applying for worldwide protection in Europe plunged past year but remains higher than before 2015, when more than one million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.

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