Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies warned the German leader Wednesday against offering financial concessions to other European countries to resolve a conflict over migration that has shaken her government.
At the same time, Merkel’s hopes of reaching a deal with other European countries to defuse her domestic troubles were boosted by the announcement that Germany and several other nations will hold a mini-summit on migration Sunday in Brussels.
Bavaria’s Christian Social Union party is locked in a dispute with Merkel over its demand that some migrants should be turned back at Germany’s borders. It has given her two weeks to reach agreement with European partners. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the CSU’s leader, is threatening to go ahead unilaterally with his plans if she doesn’t — potentially threatening the governing coalition.
The CSU is determined to show that it’s tough on migration ahead of an Oct. 14 state election in which it wants to keep down support for the nationalist, anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party.
On Wednesday, Bavarian governor Markus Soeder also was keen to portray the party as upholding the eurozone’s financial stability — expressing skepticism over an agreement this week between Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to create a future eurozone budget that they hope will boost investment.
He questioned “whether a eurozone budget can actually be the right way to stabilize the currency” and cautioned against Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, making financial concessions to secure countries’ support in taking back rejected migrants.
German conservatives have long rejected the idea of transferring funds to poorer countries in the 19-nation eurozone, and Merkel has had to tread carefully to secure rescue packages for Greece and others in recent years.
“The stability of the currency and the question of refugee policy are two different things,” Soeder said. “They must not be mixed up with each other.”
“We need a change to migration policy, strengthening the rule of law,” he added. “And the stability of the currency is another thing — no compromises can be made on that.”
Soeder’s CSU and Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, which are conservative sister parties, govern Germany together with the center-left Social Democrats.
Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert dismissed the suggestion that the chancellor was trying to buy deals on migrants with financial concessions.
Speaking on World Refugee Day, Merkel herself stressed the need for a European solution to the influx of migrants that the continent’s governments have argued over for nearly three years.
“We must, in our own interest, solve the big questions of foreign, refugee and migrant policy together,” she said. “It would not be good if everyone did so to the detriment of others.”
Merkel is seeking bilateral or multilateral accords to ensure that other European countries take migrants back if Germany turns them away. She plans to meet leaders of countries including Italy and Greece at Sunday’s mini-summit, which will be followed late next week by a full summit of the 28-nation EU.
After meeting in Linz, Austria, with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz — a leading hardliner on migration — Soeder said he would like to see European solutions “but they must be solutions that work, and not just sometime, but quickly.”
“I hope very much that our German neighbors succeed in finding a joint government position,” said Austria’s Kurz, whose country takes over the rotating EU presidency July 1. “Hopefully a joint position that goes in the right direction.”