Merkel settles migration row with Bavarian ally

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (L) and his spokesman Juergen Fiscsher (R) leave a leaders meeting of Christian Social Union (CSU) party and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the CDU headquarters in Berlin, Germany, 02 July 2018. Seehofer announced that he will not resign from office. [EPA-EFE/ALEXANDER BECHER]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives settled a row over migration that threatened to topple her fragile governing coalition late on Monday evening after talks with her rebellious interior minister led him to drop his threat to resign.

Emerging after five hours of talks, Horst Seehofer, leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), told reporters he would remain in his post after a deal with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) that he said would stem illegal immigration.

“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 as he left the CDU’s Berlin headquarters.

CSU's Seehofer offers to stand down over border bans

The leader of Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the CSU, offered to step down from his ministerial role and party leadership during a fiery closed-door meeting on Sunday ( 1 July). 

The deal, which brought Merkel’s government to the brink of collapse just three months after it was formed, keeps her in office. But the woman who has dominated European politics for 12-1/2 years appears greatly diminished, raising questions over whether she will serve out her term.

The euro currency wobbled on several occasions during the weeks-long row, which stretched to breaking point a 70-year-old alliance between the two parties.

It was the latest aftershock from Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to more than a million refugees from war in the Middle East and Africa.

That decision convulsed European politics, fueling the rise of anti-immigration parties including the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which now threatens to unseat the CSU in October’s regional elections.

Under the deal migrants who have already applied for asylum in other European Union countries will be held in transit centres on the border while Germany negotiates bilateral deals for their return.

EU summit approves tortured conclusions on migration after sleepless night

EU leaders reached a much-needed deal on steps to tackle migration after resolving a bitter row with Italy’s inexperienced prime minister. Extended talks lasted through the night and only wrapped up on Friday morning (29 June). 

“Spirit of partnership”

The transit centres, like ‘airside’ zones in international airports, will be regarded for immigration purposes as not being in Germany, making it easier to deport from them.

The compromise deal meant that Seehofer was able to hail tighter immigration controls, while Merkel was able to say that Germany adhered to EU rules and upheld freedom of movement within the bloc.

“The spirit of partnership in the European Union is preserved and at the same time an important step to order (has been taken), Merkel told reporters.

But the crisis, the latest of several rows over migration between the two parties, is another sign of the EU-wide divide between those who want to maintain open borders and those who want to restrict the number of migrants entering the bloc.

Merkel’s CDU relies on the CSU to maintain power through a coalition. The centre-left Social Democrats, another partner in the coalition, must also accept the deal along with neighbouring Austria.

‘Controlled centres’ for migrants – not ‘hotspots’, say EU leaders

The European Council’s idea of “controlled centres” for migrants put forward in its conclusions is strikingly similar to the 2015 hotspots. EURACTIV.fr reports.

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