18 December 2018

Germany: Interior minister gives Merkel ultimatum on migrants

KONFRONTASI-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.

Seehofer on Monday agreed to implement his immigration "master plan" step by step, stopping short of unilaterally enforcing a policy opposed by Merkel while she attempts to find a solution at European level, sources have told German news agency DPA.

Merkel has been in disagreement with the leader of her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), over a point in Seehofer's plan that would see Germany turn away all migrants who have already registered elsewhere in the EU.

That proposal would see Europe's south bear the brunt of the inflow of migrants and refugees.

Merkel is hoping to find a solution on the EU level.

Both Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) held meetings on Monday to discuss the next steps in the disagreement.

In the run-up to the CSU meeting, Bavaria's state premier Markus Soeder said the CSU wanted to back Seehofer's plan, but leave it up to the interior minister to decide how to implement it.

"An important part of the masterplan is the possibility of turning people back at the border," Soeder told reporters before the meeting in Munich.

"The overwhelming majority of the German population supports this idea and this concept, and that's why we want to provide support today for implementing it," he said.

Step by step

Over the weekend, Seehofer had signalled he would hold off on implementing the measure until after an EU summit on migration and asylum policy that is scheduled for the end of the month.

On Monday, DPA reported Germany would implement the plan step by step, starting with the rejection of migrants who have already been deported or have an entry ban.

Seehofer reportedly said he would only start turning away all migrants who have registered elsewhere if no solution is found at the EU level.

Going ahead with the move unilaterally and with Merkel's explicit opposition could lead to the collapse of the German government, which was sworn in only three months ago.

Merkel is due to hold a press conference on Monday.

Later in the day, she will host the new Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who is heading a government with an anti-immigration agenda.[mr/aje]

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