4, July 2018
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rebellious interior minister have reached a compromise on a refugee dispute that threatened to disintegrate her coalition government.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), told reporters after five hours of talks on Monday that he would maintain his post, saving Germany’s fragile government coalition.
He had threatened on Sunday to resign if he did not reach a deal with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) on refugees.
“After intensive discussions between the CDU and CSU, we have reached an agreement on how we can in future prevent illegal immigration on the border between Germany and Austria,” Seehofer said late on Monday evening as he left the CDU’s Berlin headquarters.
Under the compromise, the refugees who have already applied for asylum in other European Union countries will be held in transit centers on the border while Germany negotiates bilateral deals for their return.
Merkel sounded pleased with the compromise.
“The spirit of partnership in the European Union is preserved and at the same time, an important step to order [has been taken],” the German chancellor said.
Merkel’s CDU relies on the CSU to maintain power through a coalition. The CDU/CSU bloc took 33 percent of the votes in September 2017 elections.
In March, Merkel’s conservative alliance (the CDU/CSU bloc) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) reached a coalition deal after weeks of fierce negotiations that saw Merkel relinquish the key ministry of finance, among other concessions, further weakening her hold on the government.
Both the CDU and SPD performed poorly in the general elections last year. The SPD initially resisted going into a coalition with the CDU but relented after Merkel failed to reach a deal with two lesser-known parties.
Merkel’s 2015 decision to open the doors to over a million refugees, many fleeing war in the Middle East, fueled the rise of anti-immigration parties, including the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which now threatens to unseat the CSU in regional elections scheduled for October.
Europe has faced its worst refugee crisis since World War II. The continent has been hit since 2014 by an unprecedented influx of refugees fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, in particular Syria.