Merkel under pressure for EU migrant deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had last week asked the CSU to give her two weeks to come up with bilateral migrant deals with partners, such as Italy and Greece.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had last week asked the CSU to give her two weeks to come up with bilateral migrant deals with partners, such as Italy and Greece. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies denied a newspaper report yesterday that they would give her two weeks to deliver a European solution on migrant policy before defying her by starting to turn away refugees at the border.

Such a move would defuse the immediate row that threatens her partnership with Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and could even end her coalition.

Citing unnamed sources from the CSU leadership, the top-selling Bild reported that the party would agree to the plan, drawn up by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, from Bavaria, but delay its implementation until after a European Union summit on June 28-29.

If no satisfactory EU deal is reached, German police would start sending back migrants who had registered in other EU states, Bild reported.

Handelsblatt daily also reported the two-week delay.

But CSU General Secretary Markus Blume said the Bild report was made up. "There are no agreements in any direction," he told Reuters. "It is pure disinformation."

The CSU has set today as the day to start implementing a national policy, a move Dr Merkel rejects as it would reverse her 2015 open-door policy and undermine her authority. It would also deal a blow to the EU's Schengen open-border system.

The CSU has set today as the day to start implementing a national policy, a move Dr Merkel rejects as it would reverse her 2015 open-door policy and undermine her authority. It would also deal a blow to the EU's Schengen open-border system.

While Dr Merkel would welcome a reprieve from an immediate crisis in her coalition, which also includes the Social Democrats, such a move would pile on pressure to deliver a EU deal. Divisions are deep on how to deal with large numbers of people fleeing conflict, many from the Middle East.

The issue has come to a head in the last week, with a new Italian government refusing to let a ship with hundreds of migrants dock at its ports. The ship arrived in Spain yesterday.

In a last-ditch bid to avert a crisis, Dr Merkel had last week asked the CSU to give her two weeks to come up with bilateral migrant deals with partners, such as Italy and Greece, similar to one agreed between Turkey and the EU in 2016.

Yesterday, a government spokesman said Dr Merkel was seeking talks with some EU members on migrant policy before the leaders' summit at the end of the month, but denied a report in Bild that she was trying to set up a special summit.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2018, with the headline 'Merkel under pressure for EU migrant deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe