As we discussed previously, Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel's liberal stance that allowed a million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015. Heading into Monday, the interior minister wanted to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been registered in another EU country, often their first port of call, Italy or Greece, a proposal which however is a non-starter with both Italy and Greece.
But Merkel is firmly opposed, warning that it would leave countries at the EU's geographic southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the June 28-29 EU summit.
It is hardly a secret that popular misgivings over the massive migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power. In Germany, voters handed Merkel her poorest score in September's elections while giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD. The latest poll released this morning did not help: a Forsa poll commissioned by RTL and ntv, showed that in the wake of the refugee debate, German CDU/CSU lost 4% points, as voter support for CDU/CSU slipped to 30%, the lowest since the federal elections.
Which brings us to Monday, when Seehofer's CSU met on Monday to decide which course to take. As the Local de reported, he had the nuclear option of seeking approval to shut Germany's borders immediately in defiance of Merkel, or the less aggressive choice of giving her an ultimatum of two weeks to sort out a deal with other EU nations.
Signalling that he is leaning towards the latter option, Seehofer wrote in a column in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that "it is essential that the EU summit takes a decision at the end of June. "The situation is serious but still solvable," he wrote. Of course, whichever option he chooses, the ball will land in Merkel's court.
Then, moments ago, DPA reported that Seehofer indeed gave Merkel a two week ultimatum until the end of June to agree Europe-wide migration rules. After the deadline, if Merkel is unable to get EU countries to approve a solution within the deadline, comprehensive refusals of migrants at borders will begin, which will ultimately begin a chain reaction which will likely end will the collapse of Merkel's government, and the end of her political career.
To be sure, having been given a two-week ultimatum, Merkel now faces the Herculean challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.
Good luck with that: central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system that has essentially floundered. A populist-far right government in place in Italy, as well as the conservative-far right in power in neighbouring Austria, have also taken an uncompromising stance on immigration.
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