Angela Merkel, now in her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, has rarely found herself in such a precarious position. Horst Seehofer is keen to introduce police controls on Germany’s souther border. Such a policy would upend Merkel’s open-door policy towards migrants and refugees as it would lead to an almost completely closed door at German borders.
However, Chancellor Merkel has insisted that the only answer to the issue is a pan-European one, arguing that national border controls will only speed up the collapse of the passport-free Schengen system, which applies to most EU countries.
Ms Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, has said that the Chancellor is firmly opposed on unilateral moves to turn back refugees that could increase pressures on countries such as Italy and Greece.:
“We must not contribute to weakening the European Union and purely national measures setting the tone again in Europe…Then Europe wouldn’t play the strong role in the world that’s required now.”
If Seehofer goes ahead and implements the most contested part of his immigration “masterplan”, she will have little choice but to sack him. But that would also lead to the collapse of her government, which has been in power for less than 100 days, and would almost inevitably end her chancellorship.
The row reached its zenith on Thursday after the regular Bundestag session was interrupted for four hours, allowing the CDU and CSU parliamentary groups to meet for emergency talks. The Chancellor received the backing of her party to wait until an EU summit at the end of the month at which she hopes an EU-wide asylum policy can be agreed on.
However, despite the Chancellor reportedly feeling “strengthened” by the support of her party, it seems all she has been given is a stay of execution. Both France and Italy vehemently disagree on a solution to migration; with Italy’s new government seeking stronger controls. As a result it’s unlikely a European deal will be made on the issue when the EU summit meets on June 28.
This crisis highlights not only continuing public concern over the impact of Mrs Merkel’s 2015 asylum strategy, but also the fragility of her divided coalition government.
Political pressure placed on Chancellor Merkel is likely to make the EU nervous, as she is considered to be the de facto leader of Europe. The fall of this steadfast leader would bring a more turbulent time for the European Union, which is already struggling under a variety of issues that undermine its stability.