German interior minister resigns in migration showdown with Merkel

Larry Hoffman
July 3, 2018

The dpa news agency, citing information from unidentified participants, reported that a almost eight-hour meeting of the CSU in Munich was put on hold after interior minister Horst Seehofer made his offer.

A rift in the German government over mass migration showed no sign of resolution on Sunday evening as leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party and its coalition partner met separately, each apparently waiting for the other to blink.

Mr Seehofer's CSU had threatened to impose new controls at the German border this week if they deemed that agreements Ms Merkel brought back from a European Union summit were insufficient to ease the migrant burden.

A refusal to do so could rupture the party's 70-year alliance with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), depriving her of a majority in Europe's economic powerhouse.

She said Greece and Spain had agreed to take back migrants stopped at the Bavarian-Austrian border who are proven to have entered their countries first - a move she hoped would allay Mr Seehofer's concerns.

Mrs Merkel has rejected that approach, saying Germany needs to address migration more broadly to preserve European Union unity.

The currency then partly bounced on news Seehofer had offered to step down as minister and as chair of his Christian Social Union (CSU) party, only to backslide again after the euro zone manufacturing data.

It is unclear what effect Seehofer's resignation as interior minister and CSU leader, if he goes through with it, would have on the two conservative parties' governing coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats. The CDU's leaders, who are now gathered in Berlin for a second straight day of discussions, said they still see room for a compromise solution in the migration dispute.

According to the document seen by coalition sources, Merkel secured similar deals with a total of 14 countries including France and central European states that were fiercely critical of her migrant policies, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

However, Mr Seehofer apparently does not agree.

The compromise comes after lawmakers from both conservative parties in the German coalition urged the Chancellor and her interior minister on Monday to resolve the dispute over migrant policy that has thrown her three-month-old government into disarray.

This was a direct contradiction of Merkel's account of the meeting, which she delivered in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday.

"I'd like the CDU and CSU to continue working together because we're a success story for Germany", she said.

If Seehofer does quit, the CSU could offer a replacement interior minister if it aims to remain tied to Merkel's CDU party. She also would not speculate on whether she might fire him or if the issue could lead to a government confidence vote in parliament.

However, the more conservative CSU believes its credibility is at stake as it tries to curb support for the anti-migration Alternative for Germany party in the upcoming Bavarian election.

Its success was based on strident anti-immigration rhetoric, attacking Mrs Merkel's decision to let in more than a million asylum seekers in 2015-2016. But the CSU is split itself on how far to push the row with the CDU, and faces a tough regional election in October with a strong challenge from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

"Our goal remains a joint European solution with orderly protection of the exterior borders, and centres in third countries, ' said Kurz, whose nation took over the rotating EU presidency on Saturday".

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