The leader of Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies hailed her “first class” leadership on Tuesday (15 December), seeking to draw a line under a coalition dispute that blew up last month when he publicly denounced her handling of Germany’s refugee crisis.
Horst Seehofer inflamed tensions with Merkel at his party’s congress in November when he criticised her refusal to cap the migrant influx into Germany, winning cheers from his Christian Social Union (CSU) as she stood uncomfortably on the stage.
The episode left Merkel reeling, but she turned the political momentum back in her favour on Monday (14 November) with a rousing speech to her Christian Democrats (CDU) that won her an eight-minute standing ovation and plaudits from media commentators.
Together, the CDU and CSU form “The Union” – a conservative alliance. Addressing the CDU congress in Karlsruhe on Tuesday, Seehofer welcomed Merkel’s pledge a day earlier to reduce the influx of migrants, and struck a conciliatory tone.
“We have an excellent chancellor,” he said, to rapturous applause from the CDU party faithful in a 51-minute speech peppered with warmly received quips and asides.
“Our chancellor does a first class job of representing us in the world,” Seehofer added. “She is also highly regarded in Germany – and I stress also in Bavaria.”
Germany expects around a million migrants to arrive this year, many of them refugees fleeing to Europe from war and deprivation in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and attracted by Europe’s wealthy economy and its stability and security.
Most arrive in Bavaria, and Seehofer has faced intense pressure from municipalities in the conservative, southern state to press the federal government to stem the flow of arrivals.
“Angela, you know this, we support you in all areas,” Seehofer said of her efforts on migrants. While praising Merkel’s leadership, he cautioned: “There is no country in the world that can take in refugees without limits – and Germany won’t manage this in the long-run either.”
CDU delegates hope Merkel’s dynamic speech on Monday and Seehofer’s more conciliatory tone will shore up popular support for their alliance. A poll by Emnid on Sunday (13 December) put their support at 37%, down from 43% in mid-August.
“Our members, our supporters expect that we solve this major issue sensibly and wisely, that we do so together as CDU and CSU,” Seehofer said of the refugee crisis, before leaving the stage in conversation with Merkel.