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Merkel & Seehofer agree on “migrants’ transit centers” in the borders with Austria

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and her rebellious interior minister from Bavarian CSU, Horst Seehofer, reached a compromise on migration at almost literally the eleventh hour Monday, averting a government crisis for the time being. Mr. Seehofer, who threatened to resign the previous day, will stay in office.

The two agreed to

  • set up three closed transit centers for asylum seekers on the border with Austria, confining them there as their cases are quickly processed.
  • asylum seekers will be returned to whichever EU country they first registered, provided Germany has a bilateral agreement with that country to return asylum seekers.
  • if that country does not have an arrangement with Germany, Austria has agreed to take them back. This will need an agreement with Austria.

I read somewhere that the government hopes that one migrant per day will be sent back.

KTg understands that the agreement will not be implemented retroactive.

The Merkel-Seefhofer agreement has to be adopted also by coalition government partner, the social-democrat SPD. In 2015, in the peak of the refugee crisis, the SPD had rejected proposals for “transit centers.”

According to latest information early Tuesday afternoon:

  • SPD has not officially commented on CDU/CSU proposal
  • CDU/CSU are increasing pressure to SPD saying “Germany and Economy need a stable government.
  • Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is expected to make a statement on the issue.

The last-minute compromise capped an unprecedented challenge to Ms. Merkel’s authority after she vetoed the interior minister’s plan to turn back refugees at the border, and he countered that he would go ahead with it anyway. He backed off from immediate action, but gave her an ultimatum to find the European solution she considered necessary.

German media see the deal with skepticism.

Majority of German social media users speak of Seehofer’s unprecedented front flip after he threatens to resign but ultimately decided to stay.

Government more fragile than ever

Without Monday night’s compromise, Mr. Seehofer would have been fired or would have resigned, which could have brought down the government if his party then withdrew from the coalition.

Although Ms. Merkel lives to govern another day, her coalition government is now more fragile than ever and her own position considerably weaker. The challenge from the Christian Social Union (CSU), which has functioned as the Bavarian wing of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since the founding of the Federal Republic, was unprecedented in its ferocity.

Mr. Seehofer, who remains as leader of the CSU, can argue that even though he compromised in the end he pushed the chancellor to act on an issue that has eroded his party’s support in Bavaria. His ultimatum forced Ms. Merkel to seek a EU mini-summit the previous weekend and diverted the scheduled EU summit this past weekend to an all-night crisis meeting on the migration issue. (handeslblatt and others)

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