GERMAN leader Angela Merkel is locked in a bitter stand-off with one of her own ministers that is placing her fragile government under threat.
Her interior minister Horst Seehofer is calling for ‘asylum tourists’ — his label for migrants who have registered as asylum seekers in other European countries — to be turned away at the German border.
But Mrs Merkel opposes unilateral action, arguing that it would weaken the EU. The issue has escalated into a high-stakes power struggle, with many observers predicting Mrs Merkel might have to fire Mr Seehofer, who leads the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union (CSU) party.
This would effectively end the coalition with Mrs Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which took office in March after six months of post-election haggling. The spat has laid bare the limits of Merkel’s authority in a fractious government.
Mr Seehofer told Bild am Sonntag: ‘No one in the CSU has an interest in bringing down the chancellor, dissolving the CDU-CSU joint parliamentary group, or blowing up the coalition.
‘(But) we want finally to have a sustainable solution for turning back refugees at our borders.’ In his previous job as Bavarian governor, Mr Seehofer was one of the leading critics of Mrs Merkel’s decision in 2015 to leave Germany’s borders open as migrants streamed across the Balkans.
Immigration is likely to be main topic at an EU summit in two weeks. Mrs Merkel is reportedly working on a ‘special summit’ beforehand with countries affected by migration.
In her weekly address, Mrs Merkel said migration was ‘a European challenge that needs a European answer’.