German government crisis reignites

RAINER JENSEN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and CSU party chairman Horst Seehofer l at a press confernce in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 14 April 2016.

German government crisis reignites


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European markets opened on Monday with pessimism, as the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer offered to resign on Sunday over migration policy.

The leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) – the ruling Christian Democrats sister party – is taking a hardline position over migration policy. The alliance between the Bavarian party and the Christian Democrats (CDU) has been an independent variable of German politics since 1949.

Seehofer is also considering a resignation from the CSU leadership; he insists that Germany should turn around migrants on the German border. He also wants to push migrants back to the country of their entry in the EU, that is, Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta.

Seehofer faces local elections in Bavaria and is competing with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) on a hardline position on migration. The Bavarian leader is accusing the Chancellor of not maintaining a hardline position in Brussels, giving in to compromises.

He said on Sunday that his talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel over migration had “no effect” and offered his resignation.

The offer of resignation could spell the government’s downfall. Seehofer is scheduled to meet Chancellor Merkel again on Monday, but support for his policy is waning within his own party.

Seehofer’s hardline position is questioned by the CSU Vice Chairman, Manfred Weber, who as President of the EPP believes the Brussels agreement delivers the disruption of migration.

In doing so, he is backing Chancellor Angela Merkel.

During an interview with the public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday, Chancellor Merkel argued that the Brussels agreement has the same effects as the hardline policy pushed by Seehofer. She expressed the wish to continue working together with the CSU but did not refer specifically to Seehofer.

Overall, polls also suggest that the Bavarian CSU is losing rather than gaining electoral influence due to its “uncompromising” position.

Setting its own red lines, the government’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD) published their own five-point position on migration policy on Sunday.

SPD are largely supportive of the Chancellor. SPD wants close cooperation with countries of origin and tighter border controls – that is the consensus across the EU – but denounces any calls for unilateral action and call for further help to Italy and Greece. Echoing Merkel, SPD calls for a “European solution.”

Significantly, SPD is calling for an overhaul of labour law to avoid a so-called “race to the bottom.”

Five countries bordering the EU have expressed unwillingness to cooperate with the EU in processing asylum applications, namely Egypt, Albania, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Initially, Albania had offered the possibility of cooperation, but a Franco-Dutch opposition to its membership status changed the political mood.

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