politics

Merkel to Face Lawmaker Calls to Tighten Refugee Policy

Updated on
  • German chancellor portrays EU disunity as existential threat
  • Renewed fallout from migrant crisis roils German government
Merkel Courts Government Crisis in Refugee Clash With Allies

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said disunity over migration risks becoming an existential threat to the European Union, just as she faces renewed political strife at home over border security.

“The question whether we can tackle illegal migration within the European Union is maybe the most fateful question for Europe’s cohesion,” Merkel told a business conference in Berlin late Tuesday. “The common market will only continue to exist -- and the common market is the very basis for the European Union -- if we are able to defend our external borders.”

The warning reflects Merkel’s growing sense of urgency about resolving intra-EU policy clashes, including over migration and strengthening the euro area, so Europe can stand up to a U.S. administration that’s picking fights with its partners. Meanwhile, political fallout from the refugee crisis of 2015-2016 is flaring again in Germany.

The chancellor’s parliamentary caucus pressed her to end a cabinet standoff over refugee policy at a closed-door meeting in Berlin earlier Tuesday, according to a party official who attended.

Immigration Critics

When Merkel’s 246-member Christian Democratic-led bloc discussed a proposal by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to start turning back refugees at the German border, no lawmaker supported Merkel in her criticism of the plan, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the meeting wasn’t public.

In contrast, 13 lawmakers were said to back Seehofer. Merkel told reporters at a news conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who won power last year on an anti-immigration platform, that she’ll continue to seek a deal with her interior minister.

Seehofer, who heads the Christian Social Union, a Bavarian party allied with Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is the most prominent domestic critic of her open-borders policy. He joined Merkel’s fourth-term cabinet in March as interior minister, the top federal law enforcement post.

— With assistance by Stefan Nicola

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