Berlin (AFP) – Discord on immigration policy within German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government forced her interior minister to postpone Monday the presentation of a new “masterplan” on the touchy issue.
Horst Seehofer, the conservative former premier of Bavaria state, has long been harshly critical of Merkel’s liberal migration policy that has allowed over one million asylum seekers into the country since 2015.
Seehofer, interior and homeland minister since March, had been due to present a tough new “migration masterplan” on Tuesday, but cancelled the press conference amid what the Bild daily newspaper labelled “a huge fight” within the Merkel government.
The interior ministry in a short statement said the presentation Tuesday had been postponed because “several points still need to be agreed”, adding that no new date has been set.
Merkel has particularly objected to Seehofer’s plan to turn back at Germany’s borders any migrant seeking asylum who has already been registered and fingerprinted in another EU country.
Speaking in a TV interview late Sunday, Merkel argued that this would breach European law and said that “we remain in intensive discussions about the masterplan”.
Lawmakers of Seehofer’s CSU — the Bavarian conservative sister party and coalition partner of Merkel’s Christian Democrats — labelled this objection as “absurd”.
Bavaria was on the frontline during the mid-2015 peak of the refugee influx that saw tens of thousands of migrants a day enter Germany across the Austrian border.
Seehofer was the driving force behind a coalition agreement to seek to limit the number of new asylum seekers coming to the biggest EU country to 200,000 per year.
The mass influx drove the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) which entered parliament last year and is challenging the CSU in Bavarian state elections this year.
News website Spiegel Online judged that if Seehofer and Merkel can’t reach agreement, the issue could force the chancellor to fire her minister or lead him to resign and thus “could spark a coalition crisis”.