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Migrants walk behind a police car on their way from the Austrian-German border to a first registration point of the German federal police in Bavaria Migrants walk behind a police car on their way from the Austrian-German border to a first registration point of the German federal police in Bavaria   (AFP or licensors)

Germany's fragile coalition facing friction over migration

Frictions have emerged within Germany's already fragile coalition with the German Interior minister saying he wants to be able to start turning migrants back at the border quickly if Chancellor Angela Merkel's talks with other European Union countries fail to produce results this month. The tensions over migration come ahead of a crucial German state election faced by Merkel's Bavarian allies.

By Stefan J. Bos

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer averted an immediate collision with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday by giving her two weeks to talk with Germany's Europea Union partners over migration.

Merkel opposed his calls for Germany to unilaterally turn back people previously registered as asylum-seekers in other EU countries.

But speaking after talks with her party, Merkel told media that she would report back on July 1.

She said that both her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Interior minister's Christian Social Union (CSU) "want to decrease migration."

Merkel stressed that the two coalition parties would not like to see "a repeat of the situation that existed in 2015" when Germany took in some 1 million migrants fleeing war and poverty in countries such as Syria.

Migration master plan

The chancellor made clear that she supported minister's Seehofer's suggestion to come up with a "migration master plan" but stressed that she opposes "unilateral" migration actions, such as turning back people at Germany's border. She seeks cooperation with other EU nations.

In separate remarks, minister Seehofer said he'd be glad to see a European agreement, but he stressed that he doesn't rule out "a national solution unless a European settlement comes together."

Seehofer's remarks don't come as a surprise: His CSU faces a tight election in the German state of Bavaria.

Polls suggest that its absolute majority in the Bavarian state legislature is in danger in the October 14 state election because it is being challenged on the right by the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.

Fewer asylum seekers

The CSU exists only in Bavaria, while Merkel's less conservative CDU is in Germany's other 15 states.

Monday's fictions over migration came ironically while the European Union's asylum office said the number of people applying for international protection in Europe had plunged, though it remained higher than before 2015.

The EASO said in an annual report Monday that just over 728,000 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year.

It says around 30 percent of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report
18 June 2018, 17:16