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Bavarian CSU leader rejects interior minister's security reform proposal

Horst Seehofer has blasted a proposal by the interior minister to reform security agencies. The relationship between Chancellor Merkel's CDU and sister party CSU has grown tense over migration and security issues.

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CSU stands by demand for refugee cap

The Bavarian premier and head of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), Horst Seehofer, spoke out against a security proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Wednesday.

De Maiziere published a comprehensive list of suggestions on how to improve German security in an influential daily newspaper on Tuesday. One of the most drastic proposed changes: the interior minister wants to turn over the protection of the constitution to the federal government and dissolve the 16 states' secret service agencies.

Criticism from CSU, support from Merkel

"I can only tell you: There will be no dissolution of the Bavarian agency for the protection of the constitution," Seehofer said at the opening of a three-day conference on security policy organized by the CSU. Other prominent CSU politicians joined Seehofer in the critique.

Deutschland Kloster Seeon CSU Treffen (Reuters/M. Rehle)

Horst Seehofer (center left) and Andreas Scheuer (center right) attended a CSU 'security' summit on Wednesday

The party's general secretary Andreas Scheuer said the interior minister's suggestions were "already finished, because they won't find a majority."

A spokesperson for Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that the chancellor had expressed support for de Maiziere's proposals and encouraged their publication.

This is the latest disagreement between Merkel, who is also the head of her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and CSU head Seehofer. Their two center-right parties form the conservative "Union" bloc in the German federal parliament and usually coordinate their election campaigns. While the CSU is on the ballots only in the state of Bavaria, the CDU vies for votes in the 15 other German states.

Centrist Merkel and conservative populist Seehofer have butted heads repeatedly over migration and refugee policy. The CSU, which often takes more conservative stances than the CDU, has sharply criticized Merkel's open-door policies that allowed more than a million people to enter the country as refugees and migrants since mid-2015.

Angela Merkel Thomas de Maiziere PK Asyl Flüchtlinge (picture-alliance/dpa/Annegret Hilse)

Thomas de Maziere is considered a close ally of Merkel

Seehofer repeated his demand that CDU and CSU should push for a cap on migration at the CSU "security" summit in Seeon, a small town in Germany's most southern state. While Merkel rejects such a restriction, the CSU-head insists on a limit of 200,000 refugees per year.

Refugee cap or opposition

Seehofer threatened to cancel a planned meeting with Merkel in early February that is meant to prepare the two parties for a unified campaign in the federal election in September of this year, saying that the two parties still had differences to resolve.

Seehofer told reporters that the CSU would quit the "Union" bloc and go into the opposition after the election if his demands for a migration cap were not met. But he also said that there were no substantial differences between the CDU and CSU apart from that.

CSU lawmaker Stephan Mayer promoted what he considered a possible compromise at the summit in Seeon. He suggested that Merkel and Seehofer should agree on a "breathable cap," a limit that is adjusted every year according to the country's capacity to take care of asylum seekers. 

The debate over refugee and security policies in Germany has become more heated after an asylum seeker from Tunisia was the man suspected of killing 12 people in an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin on December 19. Ahead of the national election, many CSU and CDU politicians are worried about losing votes to the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) that takes a hard line against migrants.

mb/se (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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