Bavarian Right Wonders How to Rebound with New Leader

Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with his counterpart from Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Berlin, October 10, 2014
Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with his counterpart from Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Berlin, October 10, 2014 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) is gearing up for a change in leadership after Horst Seehofer, the state premier, announced his resignation on Monday.

Markus Söder, the state’s finance minister, will take Seehofer’s place at the head of the Bavarian government.

Seehofer remains party chief for now, at least until coalition talks for a national government are completed.

But it seems only a matter of time before he will have to give up that post as well. Read more

Bavaria Threatens Lawsuit, Deepening Split with Merkel

Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with his counterpart from Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Berlin, October 10, 2014
Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with his counterpart from Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Berlin, October 10, 2014 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer escalated a dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, threatening in a letter to contest her immigration policy in court unless she changes course.

“This development can’t be allowed to continue,” Seehofer wrote, arguing that Merkel had a constitutional responsibility to protect his state and others from “uncontrolled” immigration.

More than a million people applied for asylum in Germany last year, a tenfold increase from 2013. Bavaria, situated on the country’s southern border with Austria, has been bearing the brunt of the refugee flow.

While Seehofer, who leads Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has publicly disagreed with the chancellor’s migration policy before, his threat to sue the federal government is highly unusual.

The Social Democrats, the third party in Merkel’s government, were quick to exploit the disunity on the right, calling Seehofer’s letter “a declaration of a break with the coalition.”

“One doesn’t write threatening letters in a coalition, one solves problems,” said Thomas Oppermann, the Social Democrats’ leader in parliament. Read more

German Christian Democrats Split on Immigration

German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Meise, Belgium, December 19, 2013
German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Meise, Belgium, December 19, 2013 (EPP)

As German police made their first arrests this week in connection with mass sexual assaults in the city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative coalition split deeper on immigration.

Federal transportation minister Alexander Dobrindt, a member of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, told the Münchner Merkur that a reintroduction of border controls was inevitable. “The closure of borders will not split Europe,” he argued. “The opposite is true: failing to close borders, that will bring Europe to its knees.”

Later in the day, the Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, told a meeting of Christian Social Union (CSU) leaders in Wildbad Kreuth that Germany should not allow more refugees to enter “uncontrollably”. Those who arrive from “safe” countries should be returned immediately, he added. “This is not an invention of the CSU, but German law.”

Merkel was due to join the party meeting in Wildbad Kreuth on Wednesday. Read more

Merkel Wins Over Bavarians After Immigration Row

German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Valletta, Malta, November 11
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Valletta, Malta, November 11 (European Council)

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies hailed her “first-class” leadership on Tuesday, days after she won the support of her party congress for an immigration policy that had split the right.

“We have an excellent chancellor,” Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union, told a conference of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in Karlsruhe. “Angela, you know this, we support you in all areas.”

Only a month ago, Seehofer, who is also the state premier of Bavaria, had criticized Merkel’s open-door policy and called for fewer immigrants.

On Tuesday, he still cautioned against a liberal immigration regime, saying, “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.”

But he notably shied away from making concrete proposals for curtailing the flow of people across Germany’s borders. Read more

Merkel Mends Ties with Bavarian Ally on Immigration

Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, September 28
Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, September 28 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel started walking back her open-door immigration policy on Sunday to mend ties inside her ruling coalition.

A joint statement released by Merkel and Horst Seehofer, the leader of her Bavarian sister part, the Christian Social Union, calls for the creation of “transit zones” on Germany’s border to control the influx of people as well as a temporary freeze in family reunifications.

In a concession by Seehofer, the paper does not suggest a ceiling for the number of asylum seekers that can enter Germany this year. Read more

German Conservatives Resist Merkel’s Immigration Policy

German chancellor Angela Merkel listens to Thomas de Maizière in parliament, Berlin, May 16, 2013
German chancellor Angela Merkel listens to Thomas de Maizière in parliament, Berlin, May 16, 2013 (Bundeswehr)

German chancellor Angela Merkel is coming under pressure from her own right-wing supporters to scale back an open-door immigration policy.

Earlier this week, Merkel took the immigration portfolio away from her interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, after he had voiced support for stricter controls.

On Wednesday, 34 local officials from the ruling CDU party wrote to Merkel, saying her immigration policy was “not in line with either European or German law, nor does it reflect the CDU’s program.”

That night, Merkel appeared on a special television broadcast to defend her approach. “We can do this,” she said when asked to respond to accusations that she has no plan to cope with the high number of asylum seekers. Read more

Merkel’s Bavarian Allies Split on Immigration

Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Horst Seehofer of Bavaria talk in Bad Staffelstein, Germany, September 23
Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Horst Seehofer of Bavaria talk in Bad Staffelstein, Germany, September 23 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies criticized her immigration policy on Wednesday, saying Hungary’s efforts to keep asylum seekers out “deserve support” rather than derision.

“We need Hungary to secure the outer borders of the EU,” Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer said at a joint news conference with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

“We are now in a state of mind without rules, without system and without order because of a German decision,” he added in his most pointed criticism of Merkel’s immigration policy yet.

Politico reports that conservatives in Berlin are seething with anger, calling Seehofer’s remarks “outrageous” and his invitation of Orbán “backstabbing”.

Seehofer leads the Christian Social Union that caucuses with Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the national parliament. The party dominates Bavarian politics. It has an absolute majority in the regional legislature.

Unlike Merkel, who has moved the Christian Democrats to the middle in a (successful) attempt to steal votes from the left, the Bavarian conservatives are firmly on the right of the political spectrum.

Germany’s southernmost state, which is also its second-richest, is the main entry point for immigrants journeying across the Balkans into Western Europe.

Federal authorities expect that up to one million immigrants will apply for asylum in Germany this year. Many are fleeing the war in Syria but an estimated 40 percent come from poor Balkan states like Albania and Kosovo instead.

Orbán has taken a hard line, saying the crisis is Germany’s to deal with. “Nobody would like to stay in Hungary so we don’t have difficulties with those who would like to stay in Hungary,” he said earlier this month.

The Hungarian leader has since said he is defending Europe’s Christian civilization by keeping Muslims out. The country built a fence on its border with Serbia to stop immigrants and voted against a German-backed plan to distribute migrants proportionately across the 28 countries in the European Union.