BFF-42 Merkel gets ultimatum from hardline ally over migrants

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EUROPE-MIGRANTS-GERMANY-POLITICS

Merkel gets ultimatum from hardline ally over migrants

MUNICH, Germany, June 18, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Hardliners in Chancellor Angela
Merkel’s conservative bloc on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten
asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also
rattle Europe.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s CSU party at a meeting unanimously
backed his call to give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal on the
burning issue by a June 28-29 EU summit, failing which he would order border
police to turn 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, her
Bavarian allies, 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.

Malta also turned the vessel away, sparking a major EU row until Spain
agreed to take in the new arrivals.

Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal stance,
under which over one million asylum seekers have been admitted into the
country since 2015.

He wants to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been
registered in another EU country — often their first port of call, Italy or
Greece.

But Merkel says that would leave countries at the EU’s southern periphery
alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common
European solution at the EU summit in Brussels.

“How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not,” Merkel
told her CDU party’s leadership at a meeting in Berlin, according to
participants.

– Anti-immigrant boost –

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.

In Germany, voters in September’s election handed Merkel her poorest score
ever, giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD.

Several high profile crimes by migrants have also fuelled public anger.
They include a deadly 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian
asylum seeker and the rape-murder in May of a teenage girl, allegedly by an
Iraqi.

With an eye on October’s Bavaria state election, the CSU is anxious to
assure voters that it has a roadmap to curb the migrant influx.

“We must send a signal to the world: it’s no longer possible to just set
foot on European soil in order to get to Germany,” a leading CSU figure,
Alexander Dobrindt, told the party meeting.

Seehofer had struck a more conciliatory tone, telling Bild on Sunday: “It
is not in the CSU’s interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-
CSU union or to break up the coalition.

“We just want to finally have a sustainable solution to send refugees back
to the borders.”

– ‘Almost a miracle’ –

Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to
a common plan on the migrants.

Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either
refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system.

A populist-far right government in Italy and the conservative-far right
cabinet in neighbouring Austria have also taken an uncompromising stance.

Merkel’s talks later Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in
Germany could prove crucial if she is to have any chance of forging an
agreement in Brussels.

On Tuesday, she will also meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Germany.

Berlin is also reportedly preparing to call a meeting between Merkel and
the leaders of several EU frontline nations in the migrant crisis ahead of
the EU summit.

“It would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU
summit,” Welt daily said.

But the chancellor may have no choice, as Seehofer could still launch the
nuclear option of shutting Germany’s borders in defiance of her — an act of
rebellion which would force her to sack him.

That “would be the end of the government and the alliance between CDU and
CSU,” an unnamed CDU source told Bild.

BSS/AFP/RY/1840 hrs