German Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far withstood the battle over migration that has convulsed politics across Europe, most recently in Italy. But now, infighting threatens to tear apart her government just three months after it was formed.
The CSU, a center-right party in the German state of Bavaria and a sister party of Merkel’s, sparked the latest round of fighting. The party’s leader, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, had crafted a migration plan that would enable Germany to turn back refugees at its border if they’ve already applied for asylum in other EU countries. Merkel refused to implement this plan, and Seehofer is now pushing back against her refusal.
This dispute dates back to 2015 and 2016—the peak of the refugee crisis in Europe—and Merkel’s landmark decision to open Germany’s borders to the influx of refugees coming from war-torn Syria. The move was, and continues to be, a vexed one for Germany, which maintains its open-door policy even as some of its European neighbors move to slam their doors shut.
“I see illegal immigration as one of the major challenges of the European Union,” Merkel told reporters Thursday, adding that Germany “should not act unilaterally, or without consultation, and at the expense of third parties.” She continues to advocate for an EU solution to what is ultimately an EU-wide problem. But her colleagues in the CSU don’t see it that way. Facing an upcoming October election in Bavaria, the party isn’t thinking long term. It’s keen on proving to its voters that it takes immigration seriously and that it’s a better option than the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the anti-migrant party that has emerged as the CSU’s main competitor in a state long considered a CSU stronghold. “We must finally secure our borders effectively,” Markus Söder, a CSU lawmaker and the state premier of Bavaria, said Thursday, adding that “Germany cannot wait endlessly for Europe, but must act independently.”