Merkel, Seehofer postpone showdown on migration

GETTY•BUNDESTAGAngela Merkel could be replace as German Chancellor as soon as next week claims Kai Whittaker

Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) on Monday gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks to reach a European deal on migrants before they would demand immigration curbs that could fracture her governing coalition.

At a meeting of the CSU leadership in Munich, the Bavarian party agreed to push for a policy on turning away migrants who had earlier been banned from Germany to be implemented immediately, but postponed until after an European Union summit at the end of June a ban on the previously registered, officials said.

Merkel said she will hold talks on bilateral agreements with other European countries at and around a June 28-29 EU summit. "These are all questions that we will discuss in the coming months and where we want to work very closely together", Merkel said.

CSU's hard-line interior minister, Horst Seehofer, is threatening to blow up the government by demanding the right to turn refugees away if they have already applied for asylum in another European Union country or had their applications rejected in Germany.

Seehofer, whose party is more socially conservative than Merkel's, has always been a critic of the chancellor's immigration policies, particularly her decision to open Germany's borders at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. But Seehofer's party faces a crucial election in October, and it is determined to toughen its stance on migration, faced with the growing popularity of the anti-immigrant, populist party Alternative for Germany.

"No one in the CSU is interested in bringing the chancellor down, or dissolving the CDU/CSU parliamentary partnership or destroying the coalition", Seehofer told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, adding that he did not want the asylum row to endanger the coalition government which is less than 100 days old.

Members of her own conservative party are split, with the more conservative wing backing Seehofer and the more centrist members throwing their weight behind the chancellor.

Under what is known as the Schengen Agreement, most countries in the bloc allow foreigners who enter one member state to cross into others without showing their passports or clearing customs.

"We wish the chancellor success in this", he said.

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"But we stand by our position that, if this does not succeed, turning people back immediately at the border must be possible".

Seehofer also sacked Jutta Cordt, the head of the Office for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF), an interior ministry spokesman said late Friday.

Merkel argues that Germany must not take the sudden and unilateral step of rejecting asylum seekers at the border, which would add to the burden faced by frontline countries like Italy and Greece.

"I've got the support of the European partners for negotiations in the European Council". The two parties are part of the same overall coalition running Germany.

Bavarian governor Markus Soeder and the party's top federal lawmaker, Alexander Dobrindt, have been even more vehement than Seehofer in demanding immediate action on migration.

Seehofer and Merkel have long had an awkward relationship.

That proposal would see Europe's south bear the brunt of the inflow of migrants and refugees.

She asked the CSU to give her two weeks to come up with deals similar to one agreed between Turkey and the European Union in 2016, which means migrants arriving in Greece are sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum.

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