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German Chancellor Angela Merkel German Chancellor Angela Merkel  (AFP or licensors)

Germany's government collapse nears amid migration row

Germany's interior minister is to hold last-minute talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel after threatening to resign in protest over her migration policies. But a compromise looks elusive in a dispute that could mean the end of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

By Stefan J. Bos

Merkel is struggling to prevent the collapse of her 3½-month-old administration amid unprecedented tensions over her migration policies.

The dispute pits Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and his Bavaria-only Christian Social Union against Merkel, the head of its longtime sister party, the Christian Democratic Union.

Ahead of a problematic Bavarian state election in October, Seehover's CSU party is determined to show it is tough on migration, as it faces a significant challenge from the far right Alternative for Germany party.

The minister wants to turn asylum-seekers who have already registered in another European Union country back at Germany's border.

And he told reporters that he is even ready to resign if his suggestions are not accepted. “I said I would step down...within the next three days. As an intermediate step, there will be another conversation with Merkel in the hope we can find agreement. All else we will see afterward,” he explained.

Merkel disagrees

Merkel said in a reaction that she hopes the coalition government can remain united, but she also made clear she opposes Seehover's views on stricter actions against migrants.

She told Germany ZDF television that "everyone understands the seriousness of the political situation."

The chancellor stressed she would prefer that her CDU party and the CSU continue their cooperation in the coalition government. But Merkel also made clear that she "is against unilateral actions on migration as she prefers a European solution."

Seehofer and Merkel, who have long had a tense relationship, have sparred over migrant policy on and off since 2015 when a million asylum seekers fleeing war, persecution, and poverty entered the nation.

But the current dispute has erupted at a time when Germany is seeing far fewer newcomers than in that year's influx. Merkel is also under pressure from anti-migration governments in countries such as Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Over the weekend they denied having agreed with Germany on the repatriation of asylum seekers, despite Merkel's claims that she had reached an accord on that issue with them and 11 other nations.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report
02 July 2018, 17:25