Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Merkel settles migration row with Bavarian ally

Merkel settles migration row with Bavarian ally

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her interior minister, Horst Seehofer have defused tensions over the country's immigration policy.

The transit centre scheme was proposed in 2015 by a CSU politician, Stephan Mayer, but was rejected in the strongest terms by the Social Democratic party (SPD), then and now a junior partner in Merkel's grand coalition government.

"After intensive discussions between the CDU and CSU we have reached an agreement on how we can in future prevent illegal immigration on the border between Germany and Austria", Mr Seehofer said as he left the CDU's Berlin headquarters. However, the current dispute has erupted as Germany is seeing far fewer newcomers than in 2015. Last week, an FG Wahlen survey said 91% favour European solutions on migration, an endorsement of Merkel's line and a snub to Bavaria's nationalist push for unilateral border measures. On Sunday, Ms. Merkel's party passed a resolution backing her stance.

Her coalition partners have opted not to sink the government for now.

Over recent days, speculation had focused on the possibility that Merkel would fire Seehofer if he went ahead unilaterally with his plan.

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If the CSU had withdrawn its support for Merkel's coalition, she would be left without a majority in the German parliament, possibly prompting fresh elections. But in comments to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, he complained that he was in an "inconceivable" situation.

Issues among the C.D.U. were precipitated by the surprising strength of the Alternative for Germany political party in the country's 2017 elections, which won 94 seats in the Bundestag after previously being unrepresented.

Under the deal migrants who have already applied for asylum in other European Union countries will be held in transit centres on the border while Germany negotiates bilateral deals for their return.

The conflict's political driving forces, including a state election in Bavaria in October, "will remain with us for months to come", he said.

European agreements "will take a very long time" to take effect and there are uncertainties over which countries will join, hard-line Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said.

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"I think the way this debate is being conducted is hurting Germany's image and above all that of the German government", he said.

Patzelt says he doesn't see any solution to the situation unless both of them see reason: "I can hardly imagine any wording of compromise which would avoid one of them losing the face". He insisted the CSU doesn't want to break up the conservative partnership. One thing is clear: "the stability of the government is not a question for us".

The divisions within the German government over the issue are also being played out in other European Union countries, and three countries later said they were not part of the German deal: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

"The CSU's risky ego trip is paralyzing Germany and Europe", SPD chairwoman Andrea Nahles told journalists in Berlin.

"The blame game between CDU and CSU must end, because it is irresponsible", she said.

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