Angela Merkel Faces 'Destiny Day' in Bitter Row over Immigration

Published June 18th, 2018 - 12:42 GMT
German Chancellor Angela Merke (Shutterstock/File Photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merke (Shutterstock/File Photo)

Angela Merkel is facing 'destiny day' in a bitter row over immigration that could see her 13-year rule of Germany come to an abrupt end within days.

The Chancellor's Coalition partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU), want to turn away at the border migrants who have previously been registered in another EU country - often their first port of call, Italy or Greece.

But Merkel is firmly opposed to the plan, favoured by CSU Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, warning that it would leave countries at the EU's southern periphery alone to deal with the refugee influx.

An act of rebellion from Seehofer could force her to sack him, which 'would be the end of the government and the alliance between CDU and CSU,' an unnamed CDU source told Bild. The German newspaper called it 'destiny day for Angela Merkel'.

It comes after a CSU MP suggested Merkel could be ousted by next week if she doesn't come up with a plan for the migrant crisis.

Kai Whittaker, a member of Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said infighting could weaken the ruling coalition and make her position untenable. He said Germany could have a 'new situation' by the end of next week - later clarifying that he meant 'probably a new Chancellor'.

Merkel is desperate to find a common European solution to the migrant crisis at the June 28-29 European Union summit.

Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel's liberal stance that allowed a million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015. His CSU party is due to meet today Monday to decide which course to take.

He has the nuclear option of seeking approval to shut Germany's borders immediately in defiance of Merkel, or the less aggressive choice of giving her an ultimatum of two weeks to sort out a deal with other EU nations.



Signalling that he is leaning towards the latter option, Seehofer wrote in a column in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that 'it is essential that the EU summit takes a decision at the end of June.'

'The situation is serious but still solvable,' he wrote. Whichever option he chooses, the ball will land in Merkel's court.

If Merkel is given a two-week ultimatum, she would still have the Herculean 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 that has essentially floundered.

A populist-far right government in place in Italy, as well as the conservative-far right in power in neighbouring Austria, have also taken an uncompromising stance on immigration.

EU states are deeply divided on how to deal with large numbers of people fleeing conflict, especially from the Middle East.

The row boiled over this week when a boat carrying Libyan migrants rescued at sea was refused permission to dock on either Italy or Malta.

As the two states refused to help, some 630 desperate migrants were left terrified and in desperate need of medical attention off the coast of Italy.

They cried tears of joy as they were finally allowed in dry land in Spain today after nine-harrowing days at sea.

But the heartbreaking case highlights the deep divisions on immigration which commentators warn could tear the EU apart.

Merkel's talks on Monday evening with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte could prove crucial, if she is to have any chance of finding concordance in Brussels.

On Tuesday, she will huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron.

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 Brussels summit.

Underlining the unenviable task ahead for Merkel, Welt daily said 'it would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU summit.'

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 solution to end the grumbling from her Bavarian allies CSU over her liberal refugee policy.

Popular misgivings over the massive 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 handed Merkel her poorest score in September's elections while giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD.

Several high profile crimes by migrants - including the 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker as well as the recent rape-murder of a teenage girl allegedly by an Iraqi - have also helped to fuel anger.

The case of a German teenager who was believed to have been stabbed to death in a supermarket by her Afghan asylum seeker boyfriend is due to be heard in court on Monday.

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.

Seehofer's 'masterplan' on immigration was meant to be the showpiece of the CSU's tough stance against new arrivals.

But the interior minister was forced to cancel a planned presentation of his vision after Merkel disagreed with his proposal to turn some asylum seekers away at the borders, sparking last week's dramatic escalation of discord within the conservative bloc.

For all the noise, the CSU knows that there is more at stake.

Seehofer struck a more conciliatory tone when he told Bild on Sunday that '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.'


This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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