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German Interior Minister ‘Fully in Tune’ with Italy’s Salvini on Migration, Rows with Merkel

Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer
KAY NIETFELD/AFP/Getty

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has invited Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini to Berlin in order to discuss Europe’s border crisis.

The pair has already spoken on the phone and are in “full harmony” on migration and security policies, according to a statement from the Italian Interior Ministry.

Mr Seehofer is the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party of Bavaria, which has pushed for a cap on asylum seeker numbers and disagrees with ruling coalition partner Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on the issue.

Mr Salvini serves as Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, as well as leading the Lega (League) party, which is fiercely against the European Union’s (EU) migrant policies and has slammed Germany for encouraging illegal migration. The invitation comes shortly after Salvini made headlines worldwide for turning away migrant delivery ship Aquarius, run by the controversial cgarity SOS Mediterranean.

Although left-wing critics slammed Salvini for the move, it was seen as a tactical victory for the populist leader, as nearby Spain subsequently agreed to open their ports to the vessel.

Seehofer is currently trying to pull Germany’s new government to the right and to adopt a harder stance on migration to win back territory from the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which has gained their first seats in the legislature.

He was due to announce a new, extensive migrant plan Tuesday. However, German media report it has been delayed because of on-going disagreement with Chancellor Merkel.

According to Bild, Mr. Seehofer and Mrs. Merkel had disagreed over the idea of returning migrants to the border if they had been refused asylum in other nations or had applied for asylum in more than one EU member state.

“I have a responsibility for this country, namely to steer and maintain order. And I cannot postpone it until hell freezes over,” Mr. Seehofer said, according to Deutsche Welle.

Germany’s asylum system needed a complete overhaul in order to “win back trust”, he insisted.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Bavarian Minister-President, from Mr Seehofer’s party, had proposed using the region’s aircraft to deport failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants rather than wait for the German federal government to act.

“With this, you can organise the deportations much more effectively and more targeted,” Markus Söder said.

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