Published: Wed, June 20, 2018
Money | By Ethel Goodwin

Difficult Merkel allies mull next move in German migrant row

Difficult Merkel allies mull next move in German migrant row

In her fourth term at the helm of Europe's largest economy, Merkel made it clear that she has no intention of being pushed around after an internal power struggle over immigration escalated into a threat to her government.

The political opponent undermining Merkel's political line comes from her own coalition - from Germany's interior minister Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel said she would seek an agreement with European nations at a June 28-29 EU summit, but stressed there was "no automatism" about rejecting asylum seekers if no deals are reached.

The move sparked a clash between France and Italy as immigration also triggered a domestic crisis for Merkel, a leader already weakened by her decision in 2015 to keep open German borders to a mass influx of more than one million refugees.

As an immigration crisis unfolds at home on the United States' border with Mexico, President Donald Trump trained his ire Monday morning on Germany, a country he falsely said has a rising crime rate.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, front, sits opposite German Chancellor Angela Merkel, centre back, prior to the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin.

The survey found that 62 percent of respondents were in favor of turning back undocumented migrants at the border, in line with the stance of Seehofer who is openly challenging Merkel.

Even though both Merkel and Seehofer spoke of reaching some sort of a mutually-acceptable agreement and gave assurances of mutual support for "better management of migration and reduction of the migrants' inflow", their views on the future of the German migration policy still appeared to be conspicuously different. The CSU lost thousands of voters to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in federal elections previous year, and is fearful of further losses.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits in a vehicle as she arrives for a leaders meeting of her Christion Democratic Union party at the party's headquarters in Berlin on Monday.

If Merkel is given a two-week ultimatum, she would still have the Herculean challenge of persuading European Union governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.

"This is a European challenge that also needs a European solution", the chancellor said in her weekly podcast.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's fourth-term government took almost six months to put together, taking office in March after the centre-left Social Democrats reluctantly agreed to team up with her conservatives again.

President Trump, who has had a frosty relationship with Merkel since taking office, took to Twitter Monday to declare that Germans "are turning against their leadership".

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.

CSU leaders insisted that the causes for the drop in support were in Berlin and that Germany's migration policy was a major factor.

Overall, crime in Germany is at record lows, though recent immigrants have contributed to increases in certain categories of crime.

"We're showing that we're not just working for ourselves but for the entire union", Merkel said.

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