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Austria’s Kurz wants ‘axis of willing’ against illegal migration

14 June 2018, 09:35 | Taylor George

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Angela Merkel Trump

The German chancellor is said to have urged Seehofer to wait until an EU meeting in two weeks' time at which she would seek an agreement with other European leaders.

Three years after the migration crisis erupted, the inflow has slowed dramatically but the coalition is still bickering over what would be a sustainable solution.

Seehofer, the former premier of conservative Bavaria state, has always been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders at the height of Europe's migration crisis in 2015. The Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the coalition, also withdrew for talks.

Merkel's March 2017 visit to the White House was marked by Trump either not hearing or ignoring her offer to shake hands in the Oval Office.

The CSU faces elections in Bavaria in October, and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) poses a significant threat, with its anti-immigration rhetoric.

Migration has become one of the most polarizing political issues across Europe, where populist parties have surged, helped by a popular backlash against new arrivals.

Merkel has made clear she rejects a plan to turn back at German borders any asylum-seeker already registered in another European Union country, arguing that her country shouldn't go it alone while Europe searches for a common policy.

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"(Trump's) withdrawal via Twitter is of course sobering and a little depressing", Merkel said, according to a translation from public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Seehofer takes a much harder line than Merkel on immigration and was expected to present a "migration master plan" this week.

Merkel and Seehofer have been increasingly at loggerheads over the refugee issue. Seehofer promptly renamed himself Heimat, or homeland minister, a provocative move as the word was hijacked by the Nazi party to promote loyalty and the need to protect to the death of German values, and has not shaken off that connotation.

There is a risk that the CSU could break away, or at least trigger a confidence vote in Mrs Merkel's leadership.

Seehofer's decision to back out of attending an integration summit in Berlin on Wednesday only increased the tension.

Speaking alongside German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a Bavarian conservative who shares the Austrian chancellor's views on tightening up Europe's borders, Kurz said fighting illegal immigration would be a top priority for Vienna's presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2018. While it fits in with the idea that asylum seekers should not "shop" for the country that gives it the best welcome and benefits, Merkel has feared that copycat laws would follow across Europe, as one country after another would close its borders to avoid becoming the receptacle for all of the continent's undocumented migrants.



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