Tension within German government over migrant policy

Author (Person)
Series Details June to July 2018
Publication Date 02/07/2018
Content Type


A major source of tension within Germany's coalition government was unveiled in June 2018, following disagreements between Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and her interior minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) on how to handle irregular migration at the borders.

Further information:

This rift is the result of a deep disagreement over how to manage irregular migrants arriving at the German borders - while Ms Merkel argues that an EU-wide solution must be found to address irregular migration, Mr Seehofer wants police to have the power to turn away undocumented migrants at the border. The standoff became more evident as Mr Seehofer engaged with other European stakeholders defending a harder stance on migration.

Horst Seehofer, who also leads CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU, reportedly told Angela Merkel that he would use a 'ministerial authorization' to institute his plan alone if a compromise was not found. He also warned against his potential dismissal, highlighting that would lead to the collapse of the coalition government. However, the CSU agreed to give Ms Merkel some time to attempt a new EU-wide agreement on migration.

On 1 July, Horst Seehofer offered his resignation as minister and CSU leader following the unsatisfactory results of two rounds of discussion held between Angela Merkel and the remaining EU heads of state and government.

+ Informal meeting on migration and asylum issues, 24 June 2018
+ European Council addresses illegal migration challenges, 28 June 2018

However, a compromise agreement between the two sides was announced on the following day, thus avoiding Mr Seehofer's resignation. The deal included the creation of 'transit centres' physically located inside the German border but not technically on German soil. Migrants would then be repatriated to the European country where they first arrived - bringing in the need for bilateral agreements with those countries.

The deal was not praised by the Austrian government, which vowed to protect the country's interests in case migrants were prevented from crossing the border with Germany due to the absence of bilateral agreements on returning migrants. It was yet unclear whether the centre-left SPD, also part of the cabinet coalition, would accept such agreement between the CDU and the CSU, considering the very distinct views on migration. A similar plan was rejected by the social democrats in 2015.

Related Links
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 03.07.18: Merkel’s Challengers https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/76730
EurActiv, 05.07.18: Domino effect of German border closure awaits crucial Vienna talks https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/domino-effect-after-german-border-closure-pending-of-vienna-talks/
Social Europe, 06.07.18: Are Europe’s Populists Calling The Shots? https://www.socialeurope.eu/are-europes-populists-calling-the-shots
LSE European Institute: EuroppBlog, 25.06.18: Power is draining away from Chancellor Merkel http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2018/06/25/power-is-draining-away-from-chancellor-merkel/
Deutsche Welle, 22.06.18: Horst Seehofer warns Angela Merkel against dismissing him amid migration spat http://p.dw.com/p/303Wx
Spiegel Online International, 19.06.18: Inside the Coalition Battle That Could Topple Merkel http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/migration-battle-dangerous-for-merkel-a-1213611.html
Pew Research Center, 21.06.18: Differing views of immigrants pose a test for Germany’s coalition government http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/06/21/differing-views-of-immigrants-pose-a-test-for-germanys-coalition-government/
BBC News, 14.06.18: Germany migrant row threatens Merkel coalition https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44481447
Deutsche Welle, 15.06.18: Germany's political crisis over asylum: What happens now? http://p.dw.com/p/2zdcL
The Guardian, 14.06.18: Merkel coalition at risk as talks on refugee policy falter https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/14/merkel-coalition-at-risk-as-talks-on-refugee-policy-falter
Bloomberg, 17.06.18: Angela Merkel’s Political Future Is at Risk https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-17/merkel-at-risk-as-german-coalition-crisis-enters-critical-phase
Deutsche Welle, 19.06.18: SPD seeks high ground in German coalition mudslinging http://p.dw.com/p/2zrSg
EurActiv, 19.06.18: Merkel avoids government collapse over immigration but faces deadline https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/merkel-avoids-collapse-of-government-but-faces-deadline/
EurActiv, 15.06.18: Merkel under internal pressure to abandon EU-wide solutions to migration crisis https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/merkel-under-internal-pressure-to-abandon-eu-wide-solutions-to-migration-crisis/
Politico, 19.06.18: Angela rises from the ashes https://www.politico.eu/article/angela-merkel-rises-from-the-ashes-migration-refugees-csu-horst-seehofer/
Euro|topics, June 2018: Kurz and Seehofer want an 'axis of the willing' https://www.eurotopics.net/en/201165/kurz-and-seehofer-want-an-axis-of-the-willing
ECFR: Commentary, 20.06.18: An 'existential question' for Europe – or for Merkel herself? http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_an_existential_question_for_europe_or_for_merkel_herself
ECFR: Commentary, 29.06.18: The migration crisis is not just about Merkel http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_the_migration_crisis_not_just_about_merkel
Politico, 15.06.18: Bavaria’s man in Berlin pushes Merkel to brink https://www.politico.eu/article/horst-seehofer-bavarias-man-in-berlin-pushes-angela-merkel-to-brink-on-migration-policy/
The Economist, 03.07.18: Angela Merkel reaches a deal on asylum-seekers to keep her government together https://www.economist.com/kaffeeklatsch/2018/07/03/angela-merkel-reaches-a-deal-on-asylum-seekers-to-keep-her-government-together
Deutsche Welle, 02.07.18: Chancellor Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer agree on a migration compromise https://p.dw.com/p/30ehl
The Guardian, 02.07.18: Horst Seehofer agrees border control deal with Angela Merkel https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/02/germany-interior-minister-drops-threat-quit-border-controls-horst-seehofer
BBC News, 03.07.18: Germany's Merkel survives bruising battle with rival Seehofer https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44696497
Euro|topics, July 2018: What will the Seehofer-Merkel plan mean for Europe? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/202323/what-will-the-seehofer-merkel-plan-mean-for-europe
Politico, 03.07.18: Merkel migration deal’s domino effect https://www.politico.eu/article/angela-merkel-horst-seehofer-germany-migration-deals-domino-effect/

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