Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer continues to defy Chancellor Angela Merkel by threatening that Bavarian might go it alone in restricting migrant movements. The measures would have an impact on neighboring Austria.
In a direct challenge to his fellow Christian Democrat, Chancellor Merkel, who has said there would be no cap on the number of refugees taken in by Germany, Seehofer has announced what he has called "self-defense measures" against refugees arriving in Bavaria.
In an interview with German daily "Bild," Seehofer said the state government would agree on a wide-ranging package of measures at a state government meeting on Friday that included "integration, education and training."
"On top of that there will be specific self-defense measures to limit migration, such as sending back people to the border with Austria and the immediate transfer of newly-arrived asylum seekers within Germany," Seehofer said on his Facebook page.
It is highly doubtful that Bavaria has any legal basis to implement this type of measures on state level. Austria has nevertheless reacted immediately, with Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner announcing that Austria would have to act to "slow down the flow of migrants and implement more and more intensive border controls."
Seehofer insists that Merkel sent out the "wrong signals" by welcoming refugees in Germany and insisting that Germany "can cope." He believes her stance has prompted more migrants to come to Germany and has demanded a clear signal from the chancellor that "we will be humane, but our possibilities are limited."
Seehofer's comments have caused outrage in the government and the opposition. Merkel has rebuffed his comments, saying that refugees were still welcome in Germany if they are genuinely in need of protection. Anton Hofreiter, leader of the Greens in parliament, said his proposals were "brazen populism."
'Not King Louis II'
In an interview on German breakfast TV show Moma, the Social Democrats' deputy party leader Ralf Stegner said "Seehofer is not King Louis II and is not in Neuschwanstein, where you can just pull up the drawbridge. It's errant nonsense." He was referring to the 19th century Bavarian king, who built the now famous Neuschwanstein castle.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that attacks on asylum seekers in Germany had shot up. "In total, we have seen 490 crimes against refugee shelters," he told the Funke media group.
In a thinly veiled reference to Seehofer's proposed measures, he defended Merkel's asylum policy, saying that he does not believe "fences at Germany's borders" were the answer to the influx of refugees in Europe.
ng/msh (Reuters, dpa, epd)