Germany’s interior minister says his bitter row with Angela Merkel over migration has ended, days after a poll suggested the dispute has caused his own popularity ratings to plummet.
Horst Seehofer said the government was on course to reduce support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, following an argument he instigated that threatened to topple the chancellor’s ruling coalition.
Mr Seehofer threatened to step down from his ministerial role and as chair of the Christian Social Union (CSU), a party Ms Merkel relies on to maintain power, over immigration policy.
However, Ms Merkel was able to strike a deal with EU leaders, agreeing to turn back migrants who have already sought asylum in another European nations under yet-to-be-reached bilateral deals.
Mr Seehofer, who had sought a tougher approach, told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntagnewspaper the agreement sends “a signal to the world that illegal migration is no longer worth it”.
He said of his relations with Mr Merkel: “The windscreen is bigger than the rear-view mirror.”
The interior minister’s backtrack came just days after a survey of public opinion found his popularity had fallen by a net 16 points with the general public since he had started calling for tougher border controls.
Mr Seehofer’s approval rating tanked to just 27 per cent, falling faster than Ms Merkel’s.
The chancellor also appeared to have been damaged by the row, seeing her own approval rating fall by two points to 48 per cent, according to the ARD/Infratest dimap poll.
The results of the survey were a blow for Mr Seehofer, whose observers said had been taking a hardline stance on border control to shore up the popularity the CSU ahead of regional elections in Bavaria in the autumn.
The CSU fear they will lose ground to the far-right AfD, who have been on the march for years and made gains in last year’s Bundestag elections.
Bavaria is on the migration route from the Balkans and has also traditionally been seen as more conservative than the rest of Germany.
The anti-immigration AfD performed well in the state during elections last year.
Germany, Austria and Italy said on Thursday they would hold talks next week on how to shut down the Mediterranean route taken by tens of thousands of migrants travelling from Africa in Europe, with Rome calling the situation urgent and dangerous.