Right-leaning hardliners in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten the country’s asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also rattle Europe.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU) party has unanimously backed his call for a tough new immigration policy that would see some asylum seekers turned away at the borders of Germany. The minister had suggested he could implement the proposals unilaterally, in defiance of both European regulations and the chancellor.
Merkel disagrees with 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. "How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not," Merkel told her CDU party's leadership at a meeting in Berlin, according to participants.
Germany alone granted 60% of all positive asylum decisions in the European Union (EU) in 2017, according to recent data (pdf) by Eurostat. France granted the second highest number of asylum protections, followed by Italy, Austria and Sweden.
However, Seehofer has backed down from his threat to bypass Merkel and given her a two-week reprieve, bringing relief to Merkel's biggest political crisis to date.
In the two weeks that Merkel has been granted, she will seek to reach bilateral agreements in the next two weeks with other European Union countries to allow Germany to turn back asylum seekers at the border, in turn nullifying any need for unilateral action. Merkel hosted the new Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, on Monday who is heading a government with an anti-immigration agenda.
Seehofer's "migration master plan," which Merkel last week refused to endorse, would see asylum seekers arriving at Germany's borders turned away if they have no identification papers, have already had an asylum claim rejected in Germany, or are already registered in another country in the EU -- proposals that rights group say contravene European and international agreements. "The rejections will take effect from the first week of July at the latest if no effective results are achieved at the upcoming EU summit," a statement from CSU said.
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.