Hardliners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also rattle Europe. Merkel’s party slumped in polls as this dispute on migrants threatens a split.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s CSU party at a meeting unanimously backed his call to give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal on the burning issue by a June 28th-29th EU summit, failing which he would order border police to turn back migrants. She would not be able to fire him as that would destroy her own ruling coalition numbers.
Three years after her decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants seeking free stuff and cash handouts in Germany, Merkel is still struggling to find a sustainable response to complaints from the CSU, her Bavarian allies, over her refugee policy, this amidst more and more revelations about bribes being taken for accepting asylum claims at a wholesale level.
Merkel’s woes come as European Union countries are once again at loggerheads over immigration, triggered by Italy’s refusal this month to allow 3 fake rescue ships to dock.
Malta also turned one vessel away, sparking a major EU row until Spain agreed to take in the new arrivals. France have since agreed to take half of these, making a mockery of the Dublin agreement.
Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal stance, under which over one million asylum seekers have been admitted into the country since 2015.
He wants to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been registered in another EU country — often their first port of call, Italy or Greece.
But Merkel says that would leave countries at the EU’s southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the EU summit in Brussels.
“How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not,” Merkel told her CDU party’s leadership at a meeting in Berlin, according to participants.
Serious concerns over the migrant influx have given patriotic, populist and anti-immigration parties a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power. Even Slovenia recently saw a right wing party win most of the votes.
In Germany, voters in September’s election handed Merkel her poorest score ever, giving seats for the first time to the patriotic anti-Islam AfD party.
Several serious crimes by illegal migrants have also fuelled public anger. They include a deadly 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker and the rape-murder in May of a teenage girl, allegedly by an Iraqi.
With an eye on October’s Bavaria state election, the CSU is anxious to assure voters that it has a roadmap to curb the migrant influx.
“We must send a signal to the world: it’s no longer possible to just set foot on European soil in order to get to Germany,” a leading CSU figure, Alexander Dobrindt, told the party meeting.
Seehofer had struck a more conciliatory tone, telling Bild on Sunday: “It is not in the CSU’s interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-CSU union or to break up the coalition.
“We just want to finally have a sustainable solution to send refugees back to the borders.” Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.
Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system.
A populist-patriotic government in Italy, which is already flooded with 700,000 invaders, and the conservative-far right cabinet in neighbouring Austria have also taken an uncompromising stance.
Merkel’s talks later Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Germany could prove crucial if she is to have any chance of forging an agreement in Brussels.
On Tuesday, she will also meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Germany, who has already received the Kalergi prize for his efforts in promoting racemixing in Europe.
Berlin is also reportedly preparing to call a meeting between Merkel and the leaders of several EU frontline nations in the migrant crisis ahead of the EU summit.
“It would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU summit,” Welt daily said.
But the chancellor may have no choice, as Seehofer could still launch the nuclear option of shutting Germany’s borders in defiance of her — an act of rebellion which would force her to sack him.
That “would be the end of the government and the alliance between CDU and CSU,” an unnamed CDU source told Bild.
Angela Merkel’s Christian Union coalition have dropped to 30 percent in the polls after a bitter dispute on refugees threatened to crash the government. A poll by broadcaster RTL shows that the dispute between Merkel and her Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is harming the Chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU).
The poll shows that the parties would win a combined 30 percent of the vote if an election were held tomorrow, a drop of four percent since the last RTL poll.
The two parties, while organizationally separate have been in a union with one another at the federal level for decades. The CSU only exist in Bavaria, where the CDU do not fight elections. Ironically Salvini’s Lega Nord Party in Italy is also a regional one…
Questions have been raised over the future viability of the coalition government after Merkel and Seehofer have failed to agree on the direction of the country’s asylum policies. Seehofer has demanded that Germany start turning back asylum seekers at the border who have already been registered in other EU countries. But Merkel has refused to countenance this measure, seeking instead a common EU policy.
The main winners from the dispute, according to the RTL poll, have been the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), who rose to 15 percent in the poll. That puts them just behind the other party in government, the Social Democrats, who have dropped further in popularity to 16 percent.
The Green party have been steadily rising in popularity since September’s election and would now win 14 percent of the vote, while the Free Democrats would win 10 percent and Die Linke would be the smallest party on 9 percent.