German interior minister offers to step down over migrants

Published: July 02, 2018 12:43:58 | Updated: July 04, 2018 12:08:40

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer during a Christian Social Union (CSU) leadership meeting in Munich, Germany July 1, 2018. Reuters.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has offered to resign as both minister and as chairman of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union at a closed meeting of the party’s presidency, party sources said on Sunday.

Seehofer said he was ready to step down as minister and as chair of his Christian Social Union (CSU) at a meeting where his party’s leadership was discussing whether to accept immigration proposals Merkel brought back from Brussels last week.

The move makes the future of Merkel’s government even more uncertain, since her Christian Democrats party (CDU) relies on the Bavarian conservative CSU to maintain power through a coalition formed three months ago to end a political vacuum.

Merkel lost votes to the far-right in elections last September, and she has been forced to turn to European Union neighbours to help resolve the row over how to deal with migrants trying to enter the country.

Germany’s political crisis is the latest sign of a growing divide across the EU between those who want to maintain open borders and those who want to restrict the number of migrants entering the bloc, reports Reuters.

Seehofer, who has demanded that Merkel toughen her open-doors refugee policy, earlier told colleagues that in spite of the measures agreed with EU leaders, he saw no alternative to turning some migrants back at the border, a party source said.

Merkel rejects that idea.

CSU leaders, divided over how to face down a challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) in October’s regional election, were trying to persuade Seehofer to change his mind about resigning, the officials said.

Seehofer told party colleagues at an executive committee meeting that discussions with Merkel had been fruitless, according to a party source.

But others in the CSU have pointed to opinion polls showing that Bavarians have more sympathy for Merkel than for either Seehofer or Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder.

By appealing to migration hardliners in the CSU, they argue, the party could lose votes in the centre.

Earlier this week, EU leaders hammered out a deal to share out refugees on a voluntary basis and create “controlled centres” inside the European Union to process asylum requests.

Merkel said in an interview with ZDF television that the formal agreements and verbal commitments she had secured from her EU partners would have the migration-stemming effect the CSU wanted to achieve, but in a more European-minded fashion.

She reiterated her determination to act in way that was “not unilateral” and that was “not to the detriment of third parties”.

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