German Chancellor Angela Merkel has found her Chancellorship and governing coalition in clear and present danger via a dispute over migration with her Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, who is also the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union party.
Seehofer has threatened to turn away migrants at Germany’s border, a move which runs contrary to Merkel’s policy on migration, which has admitted more than a million asylum seekers and economic migrants since 2015. Seehofer’s move in that direction threatened to split Merkel’s governing coalition by losing the support of her party and having to nominate a new Interior Minister to replace Seehofer following his termination from the role.
Merkel, in a bid to save her position and retain coalition support, went about a series of meetings and negotiations with European leaders at a break neck pace in order to establish a ‘European response’ to the migrant crisis facing Europe, realizing that a unilateral approach would not meaningfully address the issue.
An informal meeting was held last week with failed to establish the desired result, but an agreement which came out of a Union wide summit in Brussels managed to get some agreement on ways to address some political concerns as well as the issue of taking in more migrants, which has been a hot button issue both politically and economically across the bloc.
But that agreement was not enough for Seehofer, who went to tender a provisional resignation from his post as Germany’s Interior Minister, leading right back to a situation that would rock Merkel’s government to its foundations, quite literally. Ergo, to solve the crisis, Merkel held a meeting with Seehofer this afternoon in order to accomplish a sort of compromise on the migration matter, and to preserve Seehofer, and, by extension, the party of which he is chairman, and which represents a substantial portion of Merkel’s governing coalition, in his position which was threatened by the dispute between Seehofer and Merkel.
An agreement was reached which would provide for transit centers to vet the claims for asylum offered by incoming migrants, the refusal to accept secondary migrants, and the potential deportation of those who have originally filed for asylum in some other European country.
Deutsche Welle reports:
After plenty of political twists and turns over the past few days and weeks, Chancellor Angela Merkel has achieved a last-ditch agreement to end the dispute between her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
Following a final crisis meeting on Monday, after interior minister and CSU chairman Horst Seehofer tendered his provisional resignation late Sunday evening, the Bavarian and Merkel achieved a breakthrough.
Merkel said Germany would be putting in place national “transit centers” to “order and steer secondary migration” — the movement of migrants within the EU. The chancellor said the deal would balance national and international approaches to the issue of how to control migration.
Seehofer, who confirmed he would be staying on as interior minister, said he was “very satisfied” with the “clear deal” reached by Germany’s two conservative parties to “stem illegal migration.” He added that the transit centers would help speed up asylum decisions and, in negative cases, accelerate deportations.
The general secretaries of the two parties said the agreement would reduce migration to Germany and allow the country to quickly turn away people who have no chance of being granted asylum in the country.
The deal seems to have buried the issue of whether Germany would have the authority to turn away migrants at its national borders, a main point of disagreement between conservatives that had threatened to break apart the long-standing CDU-CSU parliamentary bloc.
The agreement ends a feud that had been building for some time. Seehofer has been critical of the chancellor’s welcoming policy toward migrants since late 2015, when Merkel decided not to order people turned back at Germany’s borders.
The animosity was only compounded in March of this year, when Seehofer became Germany’s interior minister while retaining the CSU chairmanship. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that Bavaria holds regional elections in October. In order to retain its absolute majority, the CSU is anxious to present a hard line on migrants and head off competition from the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
The centerpiece of Seehofer’s tenure as interior minister was to be his “master plan” for migration. But Merkel took exception to one of its 63 provisions, which called for Germany to reject migrants registered in other EU countries at its national borders. Merkel has repeatedly stated her preference for European solutions to migration issues.
Seehofer was unwilling to accept any amendments and repeatedly postponed his presentation of the document. Instead, he threatened to use his authority as interior minister to institute national border checks over Merkel’s opposition, precipitating the crisis in Merkel’s governing coalition.
What will the SPD do?
But there’s a third player in this equation. On Monday, as Merkel was meeting with her CSU counterpart, Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairwoman Andrea Nahles said the SPD would only be guided by its coalition agreement with the CDU-CSU, not by Seehofer’s master plan.
After negotiating their deal late on Monday, Merkel and Seehofer headed for a coalition committee meeting with the SPD to discuss the arrangement.
The Social Democrats have released a five-point plan spelling out what they want to see happen on the migrant issue. That document calls for
- more to be done to combat the reasons why people flee their home countries
- no unilateral action to turn people away at national borders within the EU
- more help for Italy and Greece, the two EU countries where migrants crossing the Mediterranean most frequently end up
- tighter controls of the EU’s external borders
- a comprehensive German law governing immigration to the country and the German job market.
It remains to be seen whether the Social Democrats will go along with the CDU and CSU’s arrangement. Until the SPD gives the thumbs-up, Merkel’s government isn’t completely out of the woods.
While Merkel still has to get the support of the SPD to get this new deal approved, either way, Merkel has lost the war. Even if the SPD agrees to the plan, Merkel’s position on migration is officially dead in the water, and everything that her migration policy has sought to accomplish for the past few years is brought to naught.
This plan, if implemented in its present form, reduces Germany’s refugee liability almost to nothing, since, given Germany’s geography, it is not on the front line of the waves of migration, as those migrants need to travel through another EU nation to get to Germany, and if Germany is turning away asylum seekers who have filed for their asylum in another EU nation, and secondary migration is not permitted, then Germany could realistically expect not to see further waves of migrants. Merkel has lost in a big way, and the anti-migrant interests have won, not just at home, but across the bloc. She has conceded much and nearly lost her handle on power, which is largely maintained through acquiescence to the demands of other countries in the Union. .