German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has backed down from a threat to bypass Chancellor Angela Merkel in a disagreement over immigration policy, bringing reprieve to Merkel’s biggest political crisis to date.
Seehofer on Monday agreed to implement his immigration “master plan” step by step, stopping short of unilaterally enforcing a policy opposed by Merkel while she attempts to find a solution at European level.
Merkel has been in disagreement with the leader of her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), over a point in Seehofer’s plan that would see Germany turn away all migrants who have already registered elsewhere in the EU.
That proposal would see Europe’s south bear the brunt of the inflow of migrants and refugees.
Both Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) held meetings on Monday to discuss the next steps in the disagreement.
At a press conference afterwards, Merkel said she would hold talks at an upcoming EU summit and report back to her party by July 1.
The chancellor emphasised she does not want to see Germany unilaterally turn back migrants at the country’s borders.
Seehofer on Monday said he’d be glad to see a European agreement but that “we want this national solution unless a European solution comes together”.
“We wish the chancellor much luck,” he told a press conference.
Over the weekend, Seehofer had signalled he would hold off on implementing the measure until after an EU summit on migration and asylum policy that is scheduled for the end of the month.
On Monday, German news agency DPA reported Germany would implement the plan step by step, starting with the rejection of migrants who have already been deported or have an entry ban.
If Merkel fails to make deals with her European counterparts, Seehofer could still go ahead with instructing police to turn away all migrants who have registered elsewhere in the EU.
Doing that unilaterally and with Merkel’s explicit opposition could lead to the collapse of the German government, which was sworn in only three months ago.
On Monday, Merkel will host the new Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who is heading a government with an anti-immigration agenda.