Bavarians signal way to buy time in migrant plan dispute with Merkel
* Bavarian premier wants to back immigration "masterplan"
* But says CSU would let Seehofer decide on implementation
* Row between CSU and Merkel is destabilising her coalition
* Seehofer says situation is serious but can be overcome
(Updates with quote from CSU's Herrmann)
By Paul Carrel and Jörn Poltz
BERLIN/MUNICH, June 18 (Reuters) - Bavaria's Christian
Social Union (CSU) called on Monday for new measures to curb
immigration but said a plan to turn away migrants at the border
still needed work, buying time in a row with Chancellor Angela
Merkel that is rocking her coalition.
A showdown over immigration between Merkel and her
conservative CSU allies has escalated in the last week but there
were signs of a possible compromise when CSU chairman Horst
Seehofer said on Sunday the row could be overcome..
Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, wants the right to
reject migrants who have already registered in another EU state
but Merkel opposes any unilateral move by him that would reverse
her 2015 open-door policy and undermine her authority.
Should the CSU and Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) fail
to resolve their differences, there is talk that their
70-year-old conservative alliance could fall apart. Merkel's
three-month old coalition, which also includes the centre-left
Social Democrats, would then lose its parliamentary majority.
Arriving for a meeting of CSU leaders in Munich on Monday,
Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder said the CSU wanted to back
the "masterplan" to limit immigration at the border but would
leave it up to Seehofer to decide how to implement the measure.
"An important part of the masterplan is the possibility of
turning people back at the border," Soeder told reporters as he
arrived for a party presidency meeting in Munich.
"The overwhelming majority of the German population supports
this idea and this concept, and that's why we want to provide
support today for implementing it," he said. "It will be for the
interior minister to decide on implementation."
By backing the "masterplan", the CSU would defy Merkel and
risk destabilising her coalition. But leaving it up to Seehofer
to decide on implementation could fudge the issue for now and
allow him to strike a compromise deal with Merkel.
Crucially, Joachim Herrmann, interior minister in Bavaria,
said some preparation was still needed to make technical
implementation of the plan possible.
"It doesn't matter whether it takes hours or days - the main
thing is that it is effectively implemented," Herrmann said.
Striking a conciliatory tone in a guest column in the
Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, Seehofer said the cohesion of
Europe and Germany was at stake.
"The situation is serious but it can be overcome," he wrote,
adding that clinching an EU deal on the migrant issue at a June
28-29 summit - which is what Merkel wants - was crucial.
He urged EU members to guarantee the protection of the
bloc's external borders, to fairly distribute people allowed to
stay and quickly return those without that right.
Merkel is adamant that a European solution is needed and is
seeking bilateral deals with some partners, such as Italy and
Greece, similar to one agreed between Turkey and the EU in 2016.
The row with Bavaria's CSU, which faces a tough regional
election in October, has piled pressure on Merkel to deliver.
"We can't solely rely on a European solution," CSU
parliamentary group leader Alexander Dobrindt said. "We also
need to take the measures that are possible in Germany in order
to enforce the law at our borders."
Merkel's open-door migrant policy is widely blamed for the
rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) who are now
the main opposition party in parliament.
More than a million migrants, mostly fleeing conflicts in
the Middle East, have arrived in Germany since 2015.
(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers and Michelle Martin;
Editing by Gareth Jones)
First Published: 2018-06-18 01:00:01
Updated 2018-06-18 11:49:20
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