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German Leaders Delay Migration Showdown, Seeking Solution in E.U.

German Leaders Delay Migration Showdown, Seeking Solution in E.U.
German Leaders Delay Migration Showdown, Seeking Solution in E.U.

Angela Merkel and her rebellious interior minister agreed on Monday to a two-week cease-fire in their standoff over migration in Germany, leaving the chancellor to scramble to make a deal with European allies on an issue that could topple her government.

The reprieve appeared after the two leaders huddled with top members of their conservative parties to discuss a possible resolution in response to the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, pledging to reverse Ms. Merkel’s open-door policy toward migrants. Mr. Seehofer leads the Bavarian conservative party, the Christian Social Union, the sister party to Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and a crucial coalition partner.

Addressing reporters in Berlin after her meeting, Ms. Merkel called the dispute “a very difficult situation,” but insisted that “the C.D.U. and the C.S.U. have the common goal of improving regulatio

Mr. Trump stated falsely that “crime in Germany is way up” as a result of immigration, much as he has linked immigration to crime in the United States. In fact, crime in Germany is the lowest it has been in decades.

Although the number of newly coming migrants continues to fall across Europe, Germany is still struggling to procedure the nearly 1.4 million people, many of them Muslims fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who arrived three years ago. Although crime has not risen, there have been attacks by radicals pledging alliance to the Islamic State, and several murders by young migrant men have drawn attention and provided fodder for populists and the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany party.

Appearing before reporters in the Bavarian capital of Munich some 20 minutes after Ms. Merkel spoke, Mr. Seehofer sounded less conciliatory, saying that once he returned to Berlin, he would start laying the groundwork to change German policy over the chancellor’s objections. If Ms. Merkel fails to reach an agreement with Germany’s European partners to limit immigration, he said, he will be able to start turning back new arrivals at the begin of next month.

“We still do not have a grip on the whole migration problem,” Mr. Seehofer said. While his party supports a European solution, he added, he wants to be ready to start turning back any migrant whose asylum procedure is pending in another European Union country, or who has been registered as appearing there.

“This is not about purchasing time,” Mr. Seehofer said of the agreement reached with the chancellor. “If there is no solution reached, in July we will have to start” turning people back.

Ms. Merkel is scheduled to meet with her party’s leadership July 1 to discuss the outcome of meetings with European Union leaders to be held in Brussels on June 28 and 29.

Driven in part by the civil war in Syria, the number of asylum seekers entering Germany started to rise sharply in 2013, when it reached almost 110,000, and then soared after Ms. Merkel changed the policy in the summer of 2015.

In the following year, more than one million asylum seekers entered Germany, a majority of them arriving up through Bavaria, which shares a 500-mile border with Austria.

At the time, Bavarians turned out in droves to welcome the refugees with gifts of food and clothing at bus and train stations, and the government of Munich pledged to provide a bed for every migrant headed there. But the state has since soured on such generosity.

The flow of migrants has slowed since 2016, but it remains higher than it was in the years before the Syrian war.

Taking a harder line, similar to that of Hungary and more recently Austria, Mr. Seehofer has pledged what the Bavarian conservatives are calling an “asylum reversal,” which includes tightening the country’s borders.

The chancellor and her Christian Democrats pledged in the agreement defining the terms of their government that 2015 would remain an exception that was not to be repeated. But Mr. Seehofer’s party faces a crucial election in October, and it is determined to toughen its stance on migration, faced with the growing popularity of Alternative for Germany.

“We are convinced that Germany needs a reversal in its asylum policy,” said Markus Söder, a member of Mr. Seehofer’s party and the governor of Bavaria. “Of course, it would be good if there is a European solution, but in three years that hasn’t been reached.”

As interior minister, Mr. Seehofer has drawn up a 63-point plan for tackling migration to Germany. It was supposed to be put before the cabinet last week, but Ms. Merkel refused to approve the point about refusing people at the borders. He told reporters on Monday that he had presented it, orally, to his party and to the chancellor.

Several members of the government have complained in recent days that they have not yet seen the plan and are not aware of what the points detail. In a veiled reminder to her minister, Ms. Merkel told reporters that the decision to turn back migrants at the border is a question of “power to set policy,” which is a power that rests in the hands of the chancellor.

Ms. Merkel has long insisted that migration is a Europe-wide problem that can be solved only through a Europe-wide agreement, and that adopting Mr. Seehofer’s position would spell the end to freedom of movement throughout the European Union, a cornerstone of membership in the bloc. Under what is known as the Schengen Agreement, most countries in the bloc allow foreigners who enter one member state to cross into others without showing their passports or clearing customs.

Ms. Merkel has been asking her coalition to delay addressing the question until European Union leaders convene in Brussels to discuss immigration and other issues affecting the 28 members of the bloc at the end of the month. But the migration issue has stymied the partners for years, and the recent rise of euroskeptic governments has not made the efforts easier.

Members of her own party are split, with the more conservative wing backing Mr. Seehofer and the more centrist members throwing their weight behind the chancellor.

“We won’t accept that the Schengen system is given up on the Belgian, Dutch and the French and Luxembourg western borders,” said Armin Laschet, the conservative governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. “A European solution is the only acceptable way.”

If Mr. Seehofer, who has long been critical of the chancellor, decides to defy her, it could spell an end to the 70-year alliance between his Bavarian conservatives and those whom she represents in the remainder of the country.

That, in turn, could lead to the collapse of Ms. Merkel’s government, which also includes the center-left Social Democrats, who joined only reluctantly and are still struggling to recover from their poor showing in the national election last September.

Later on Monday, the chancellor is to meet Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, representing the new, populist government in Rome, which has taken a hard line on migration. Italy’s support will be crucial if the chancellor is to draw up a joint European Union agreement on the issue.


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