The Bavarian president has spoken in uncompromising terms about “emergency measures” for self defence, including migrant turnbacks, but his suggestions have angered senior figures in Berlin and Vienna.
No stranger to controversy, Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer is the leader of German government coalition partner the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Angela Merkel’s larger Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and regularly spars with Chancellor Merkel over her laissez faire immigration policy.
Just last month Seehofer welcomed Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban to Bavaria – a snub to Mrs. Merkel who has not been shy of making her distaste of Hungary’s approach to the migrant crisis known.
Speaking to the Bild newspaper, Mr. Seehofer said a number of gestures made by Berlin had been interpreted “in the refugee camps of the Middle East” as an open invitation to Germany, and that it was time for Mrs. Merkel to say “we remain human, we can help, but our options are limited”.
He said that Bavaria, the southern-most German state which makes up the whole of the nation’s 490 mile border with Austria, had now reached it’s “load limit” and the state would henceforth implement every measure at their disposal to deal with the situation.
Unfortunately for Mr. Seehofer, the great centralised power of federal Germany means his options are limited. He accepted that transit zones and faster asylum procedures, meaning those who aren’t accepted can be deported faster, are federal concerns – out of his remit as a state leader.
Yet he wants to go even further, announcing this morning his intention to deploy measures for “self defence”, including rejecting migrants at the Austrian border and forcibly moving those who do make it through to other German states to reduce the burden on Bavaria.
This call for effective self defence measures has been put into the public sphere by Seehofer as a sort of thinly veiled threat to nominal ally Mrs. Merkel, who has made absolutely no bones about her opposition to any form of control or limitation on mass migration to Germany this week.
Speaking on live television Wednesday night, the Chancellor said “Europe can’t become a fortress”, before adding the remarkable statement “There is no such thing as stopping the arrivals”.
Although this rhetorical battle between Mr. Seehofer and Mrs. Merkel doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to resolution, in the court of public opinion at least the Bavarian leader appears to be riding high. As reported by Breitbart London last week, Mr. Seehofer’s approval ratings have shot up by 11 points, while Mrs. Merkel’s have fallen by nine, putting her at her lowest ebb since 2011.
It isn’t just with Berlin that Bavaria may be on a collision course after the announcement of the so-called “emergency measures” for self defence.
Closing the German border would inevitably cause a great backlog of migrants on the Austrian side, an event which would likely have enormous social costs to the smaller central European country.
Der Tagesspiegel reports the comments of Austrian interior minister, clearly concerned about the proposal, who warned the policy would end in violence: “If refugees who wish to remain in Germany are sent back to Austria, then you have to expect riots ultimately”.
The minister also added if Germany closed its borders with Austria again, they would have no choice but to do the same on their southern border.