Merkel may have found a Bavarian appeasement formula

PETER KNEFFEL

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R)listens to the speech of CSU Party Chief and Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer at the CSU Pary Congress in Munich, Germany, 20 November 2015. The word in the background reads 'Federal Chancellor'.

As the campaign for the German legislative elections kicks-off, the German right moves its pieces in position for a complex chess game


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Angela Merkel and her Bavarian staunch critic Horst Seehofer may have opened a window to a political compromise on migration on Thursday.

The ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) have been campaigning and ruling for over half a century with their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The CSU has a tradition of being to the right of the CDU, in principle if not in substance, so as to affirm their “sovereignty.” But, now the CSU has drawn a sharp red line seeking to tame the Chancellor’s trademark policy of evaluating asylum applications on their merit rather than setting a fixed quota objective.

But, now the CSU has drawn a sharp red line seeking to tame the Chancellor’s trademark policy of evaluating asylum applications on their merit rather than setting a fixed quota objective. Neighbouring Austria has moved to introduce a fixed quota objective and Seehofer is demanding for Bavaria nothing less. He has also spelled out the number, which is an absolute 200,000 annual cap. But, something less may soon be on offer.

The idea that emerged on Thursday was a “flexible target” of asylum seekers that Germany could set and adjust, if necessary. The proposal emerged from CSU lawmaker Stephan Mayer and CDU lawmaker Armin Schuster, who in a joint letter to their respective leaders proposed a “breathing benchmark.” The proposal does not entail a single number, but the idea of a number fluctuating in accordance with the overall humanitarian situation. Now that both Merkel and Seehofer have a so-called “golden bridge” they can also talk numbers, which are after all flexible.

The proposal does not entail a single number, but the idea of a number fluctuating in accordance with the overall humanitarian situation. Now that both Merkel and Seehofer have a so-called “golden bridge” they can also talk numbers, which are after all flexible.

The agreement appears critical for the forthcoming elections of September 2017, given the surge of the far-right, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and Eurosceptic AfD. The CSU’s loyalty to the Christian Democrats is strong, but its survival instincts when addressing a quintessentially conservative constituency may be stronger.

Alas, if CSU is brought back on board, in spirit, the CDU may have achieved a deal of wider significance, regimenting the right of the movement behind the longest serving German Chancellor, possibly without significant losses in the center.

epa04398341 Premier of Thuringia Christine Lieberknecht (L) gives a chess board to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) during an election campaign event of the German Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) in Apolda, Germany, 13 September 2014. At (C) is CDU Thuringia Secretary General Mario Vogt. Thuringia will hold parliamentary elections on 14 September.  EPA/MICHAEL REICHEL

Premier of Thuringia Christine Lieberknecht (L) gives a chess board to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) during an election campaign event of the German Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) in Apolda, Germany, 13 September 2014. At (C) is CDU Thuringia Secretary General Mario Vogt. Thuringia will hold parliamentary elections on 14 September. EPA/MICHAEL REICHEL

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