Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies yesterday put on hold moves to turn back some migrants unilaterally at the German border, giving Merkel two weeks to find agreements with other European governments, news agency dpa reported.
The compromise, if confirmed, would help de-escalate a row that had threatened to blow-up the 70-year-old alliance between the two conservative parties, potentially destabilizing Merkel's government. Merkel is seeking an agreement at the EU summit at the end of June that would make a ban on preregistered migrants unnecessary.
Over the past week, a conflict between Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Merkel over migrant policy has escalated into a threat to her government.
Seehofer has been calling for Germany to turn back migrants previously registered as asylum-seekers in other European countries. Merkel opposes unilateral action, arguing that it would increase pressure on countries such as Italy and Greece and weaken the 28-nation European Union. Seehofer heads the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. The CSU is determined to show that it's tough on migration, arguing that this is the best way to cut support for the far-right Alternative for Germany ahead of a challenging state election in Bavaria in October.
A CSU leadership meeting in Munich unanimously backed Seehofer's plan to give Merkel until the end of the month to find a solution with other EU countries, dpa reported, citing unidentified participants in the ongoing meeting. If no agreements are reached, the idea is for Germany then to begin turning back migrants.
Three years after her decision to open Germany's borders to migrants fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and misery elsewhere, Merkel is still struggling to find a sustainable response to complaints from the CSU over her refugee policy. Merkel's woes come as European Union countries are once again at loggerheads over immigration, triggered by Italy's refusal this month to allow a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock. Merkel also faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants. Popular misgivings over the migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power.