Germany’s ruling conservative parties are at odds over immigration. Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) wants to turn refugees away at the border if they have already applied for asylum in another EU country. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) argues this goes too far.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.