German press examines Angela Merkel, Horst Seehofer migration row | News | DW | 15.06.2018
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German press examines Angela Merkel, Horst Seehofer migration row

The German government's row over migration policy is seen as the biggest threat to Angela Merkel's leadership in her 13 years as chancellor. DW looks at how the German press reacted to the escalating spat.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government threatened Thursday to begin coming apart at the seams. While her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) stands behind her, her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have lined up behind Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, defying the chancellor's preferred migration policy and, in doing so, challenging her authority. 

DW looks at how the German press reacted to the latest spat inside the chancellery.

Read more: Opinion: Asylum row could bring down Angela Merkel's government

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Pressure grows on Merkel over asylum policy

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ): Merkel's European solution will never materialize

The CSU is not even willing to give Merkel another fortnight to try and forge a European solution to the migration issue, FAZ wrote. They're not being completely unreasonable. There's little use in waiting for a European solution, given the political turmoil several other EU states currently find themselves in, according to FAZ columnist Berthold Kohler.

The Bavarians fear the federal government's migration policy could see them lose their majority in the state parliament in October's state elections. According to Kohler, the CSU is also convinced the public is having second thoughts over how to handle the influx of refugees, given recent revelations about the BAMF (Germany's migration office) and the murder last month of a German teenager, allegedly by an Iraqi asylum seeker.

Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ): The CSU's hard line isn't worth it

The Munich-based SZ wrote that the CSU has "artificially" raised the migration issue in a bid to catch up with Germany's rising anti-migrant mood. This, however, is a risk not worth taking, the paper added. Not only could it bring down the federal government; it is also bad for Bavaria, according to SZ's Heribert Prantl. 

Closing the state's external borders and introducing strict controls would seal Germany off from several key trading partners, namely Austria, Italy and nations in eastern Europe, greatly damaging the country's economy in the process. According to Prantl, refugees should be checked and, if necessary, deported from inside the country rather than at the border.

Die Welt: CDU members backing Seehofer have plenty to lose

The reason why the CSU suddenly wants to close the border is simple: It feels the far-right Alternative for Germany is pulling voters away, damaging the CSU's core in Bavaria, according to Die Welt's Torsten Krauel. The CSU wants a swift response, but Merkel insists that any hasty action would risk destabilizing Europe. For Merkel and Seehofer, it's a question of "my notion of stability against yours." Weigh up the arguments and see who prevails, the paper writes.

The hard-liners inside Merkel's CDU  who are siding with Seehofer are putting their careers on the line. Party members who sided against Merkel in the past have found themselves isolated from the chancellor's inner circle, Krauel writes.

Read more:  CSU labels far-right AfD 'un-Bavarian' as heated state election campaign starts early

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Maas: 'No sympathy for migration issues being misused'

Bild: The choice rests with lawmakers — go with Merkel or face fresh elections

While Merkel on Wednesday called immigration a "litmus test for the future of Europe," Germany's best-selling tabloid Bild turned the chancellor's words on their head, saying the issue was quickly becoming a test for her own grip on power. Should Merkel and Seehofer fail to reach a solution, Merkel must then face a vote of confidence, the paper wrote. "Every lawmaker must decide … Keep going with Merkel's way or face the adventure of fresh elections," opined Bild columnist Nikolaus Blome

Frankfurter Rundschau (FR): Won't somebody please think of the SPD?!

Even if the CDU and CSU find a compromise on the refugee issue, it will likely be hard to swallow for Merkel's other junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), according to FR's Steven Geyer. The party has been helped by the chancellor's liberal migration policy, but those days could soon be over.

"The attacks from the CSU's brass on Thursday were tantamount to an open vote of no confidence," wrote Geyer. And even if Merkel comes out of this crisis intact, she knows that her position within her own party is now too weak to take any more major political risks. According to Geyer, from this day forward, Merkel will be an altogether different kind of chancellor.


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