Author: REBECCA PERRING
Mrs Merkel is desperately battling to hold her administration together as she is backed into a corner by interior minister Horst Seehofer who has called for police to turn back migrants registered in other EU countries.
And today Andrea Nahles, leader of the centre-left Social Democrats, delivered an impassioned speech where she vowed to oppose Mr Seehofer’s plans for a crackdown on migration, warning that he is a “threat to Europe”.
She told delegates at a party convention in the western German city of Bochum: ”Horst Seehofer is a danger to Europe.
“Horst Seehofer and Bavarian premier Markus Soeder are on the way to a German Brexit.”
It has been a turbulent few days for the German Chancellor who is reluctant to change her open-door policy, which resulted in more than one million migrants, mainly from Syria, being allowed into Germany in 2015.
Mr Seehofer – who is also the chairman of coalition partner the Christian Social Union (CSU) – has agreed to give Mrs Merkel two weeks to try and thrash out a Europe-wide migration policy with other leaders at the European Council meeting at the end of the month.
However, if no solution can be found with other European countries, he could withdraw his party’s support, jeopardising Angela Merkel’s ability to stay in power.
The Bavarian conservatives – the CSU – are longtime allies of Mrs Merkel’s conservatives – the CDU.
The dispute threatens Mrs Merkel’s new “grand coalition” including the SPD after just over 100 days in office and poses the most serious challenge yet to the chancellor’s leadership.
Ms Nahles said her party remained committed to governing with the conservatives, but she said it was unclear if the Bavarian conservatives were still willing to do so.
Plans for Sunday’s emergency EU meeting, aimed at preparing for a full EU summit from June 28 to 29, were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy’s new prime minister said a draft accord on migration had been withdrawn due to a clash with Mrs Merkel.
Ms Nahles accused Bavarian conservatives of “taking the entire country hostage” to bolster their support ahead of regional elections in Bavaria in October.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of Mrs Merkel’s conservatives and president of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that Mr Seehofer needed to reach a compromise with the Chancellor, that allowed both to save face.
The CSU, scrambling to recapture voters lost to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in September’s national elections, will meet on July 1 to assess any deal reached by Mrs Merkel in Brussels, according to party sources.
Mr Seehofer has threatened to defy Merkel if a “satisfactory” deal is not reached, and to start turning away at the German border people who have applied for asylum in other EU states.
However national border controls undermine the EU’s system of free travel.
Mr Schaeuble said Mrs Merkel would have no choice but to fire Mr Seehofer if he defied her orders.