German interior minister offers to quit amid migration row

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

Both sides hammered out "a good compromise. after a hard struggle", Merkel said, adding that it involved setting up holding and processing centres for asylum seekers near German borders.

Bavarian conservative leader Horst Seehofer had threatened to resign his position as leader of his party and German Interior Minister if Dr Merkel failed to strike a bargain to control immigration to Germany - either multilaterally within Europe, or unilaterally at home. But earlier, Bavaria's premier Markus Soeder, mindful of October regional elections in which he faces a stiff challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), was positive.

The flash point issue is Seehofer's demand to order German border police to turn back asylum seekers already registered elsewhere in the European Union, and his threat to do so against Merkel's wishes.

Seehofer, 68, has been a headache for Merkel, especially over her open-door migrant policy, and the last three years have been punctuated by a series of showdowns between the two.

However, the current dispute arose as far fewer newcomers have sought to enter Germany.

Merkel had last week proposed a host of commitments on refugee policy from the European Union members. Returning migrants to the county where they first registered with the agreement of that nation preserved the EU's "spirit of partnership", Merkel said.

The deal still requires the consent of Merkel's other coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats, to become government policy.

Seehofer made no comment to reporters as he arrived at Monday's meeting in Berlin.

If he orders border police to go ahead with the scheme in defiance of the chancellor, Merkel would be forced to fire him, in turn prompting a CSU walkout that would cost her majority in parliament.

Before the sides met, CDU leaders and lawmakers stressed the importance of maintaining the conservative alliance, Germany's strongest political force for much of its post-war history.

The standoff came about over Seehofer's plan to turn back any asylum-seekers at Germany's borders who had registered in another European Union country. "The sum total of everything we've agreed on is the same as what the CSU wants", the chancellor told broadcaster ZDF the next day.

Individuals who are rejected by those countries will be pointed back into Austria "upon agreement" with Vienna, according to the deal that Mrs Merkel called a "very good compromise". "I hope that the CSU will receive their just deserts for their actions".

But he also struck a conciliatory tone, saying "there is an abundance of possibilities. for compromises", without specifying what they were.

He could defy her orders by ordering border police to carry out his plan, which would force her to fire him and nearly certainly break up the CDU-CSU alliance, or he could accept a humiliating climbdown or resign.

Differences with the CSU only pertained to the way how to achieve a reduction in migration, not to the goal as such, Merkel said. Party leader Andrea Nahles said "the CSU is on a unsafe ego trip that is paralyzing Germany and Europe".

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