INTERNATIONAL

Merkel’s Interior Minister ‘offers to resign’

Berlin, July 2: The future of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition is hanging in the balance after Interior Minister Horst Seehofer offered his resignation after weeks of battling to change her mind on migrant policy. Seehofer, who is also leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), on Sunday night offered to step down from his ministerial role and party leadership in a closed-door meeting in which he and fellow CSU leaders had debated the merits of the migration deal Merkel hammered out with fellow EU leaders in Brussels.

Last week, Seehofer threatened to turn asylum seekers away from Germany’s borders unless Merkel reached an acceptable deal with other EU partners. His stance of a tougher immigration policy put Merkel’s coalition and her political future in question, the BBC reported. During the closed-door meet, senior figures tried to persuade Seehofer not to step down, including CSU parliamentary group chief Alexander Dobrindt. “This is a decision that I just cannot accept,” Dobrindt was quoted as saying. In the early hours of Monday, the party leader then announced he had agreed to hold final talks with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union as a “concession” in the interest of the country and the coalition.

According to a report in the Guardian, if Seehofer resigns and his replacement continues an adversarial approach, it would threaten to bring an end to the historic alliance between Merkel’s CDU and the Bavarian CSU, pushing the chancellor’s coalition government to the brink of collapse. After the EU last week hammered out a vague accord on migration, promising to set up secure centres to process the asylum claims of people rescued in the Mediterranean, Merkel drew up her own set of measures to tighten controls on the influx of migrants to Germany and presented it to her conservative coalition partners.

Seehofer threatened to turn away any asylum claimant already registered in another EU country unless Merkel came up with a solution by Sunday night. Merkel set out fresh measures to calm the row, but Seehofer reportedly voiced his dissatisfaction with the plans at his meeting with fellow CSU party leaders, reports say. She is against Seehofer’s plan for Germany to unilaterally turn away already-registered asylum seekers at the border, preferring to seek cooperation with Germany’s neighbours. Merkel fears that if Germany closes its borders, it will set off a chain reaction that destroys Europe’s border-free travel zone, regarded by the EU as one of its greatest achievements, as well as a linchpin of jobs and prosperity. (IANS)