Merkel averts coalition govt spilt over migrants

European Union leaders cried victory Friday claiming to have set aside major differences over how best to handle migrant arrivals. (AP Ph

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, leader of Merkel's Bavarian-only sister party, emerged victorious on Monday, saying the compromise will "prevent the illegal immigration on the border between Germany and Austria".

Back home, Merkel, faced with the threatened resignation of her interior minister, has since had to agree to most of what Seehofer and her party critics have demanded: so-called "transit camps" on the German-Austrian border, stepped-up controls on that border and the return (albeit under administrative agreements yet to be negotiated) to their countries of first entry to the European Union of asylum seekers already registered there.

At a joint meeting of the CDU and CSU parliamentary groups, a chorus of lawmakers urged Merkel and Seehofer to make up after Seehofer offered to quit his cabinet post and the chairmanship of the CSU at a party meeting on Sunday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, whose country has flatly refused to take in migrants under a controversial European Union quota, leapt on the chance to urge Europe to close its borders.

They would either be sent back to European Union countries that previously registered them or, in case arrival countries reject this - likely including front-line state Italy - be sent back to Austria, pending an agreement with Vienna. However, as per reports, questions were already being asked about how it will work on the border with Austria. The centre-left Social Democratic Party, which is also a member of the Merkel government, needs to acknowledge it or else, the government might fall.

And this week that split - personified by German interior minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer - brought Germany's government to the brink of collapse.

"The sum total of everything we have agreed upon has the same effect" as what Mr Seehofer has demanded, Mrs Merkel said in an interview with ZDF television.

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Seehofer, 68, has been a headache for Merkel, especially over her open-door migrant policy, and the last three years have been punctuated by a series of showdowns between the two.

Some Social Democrats accuse the CSU of wanting to appear tough on immigration before a regional election in Bavaria in October where the conservatives are expected to lose voters to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.

Seehofer was quoted as telling the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Monday that he was in an "inconceivable" situation.

"We are now waiting for a rapid clarification of the German position at a federal level", said the statement, signed by Austria's conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his allies of the far-right Freedom party, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. If that country does not have an arrangement with Germany, Austria has agreed to take them back.

Top-circulation Bild daily - which had called the weekslong battle "Merkel's endgame" after 12 years in power - gave a lukewarm welcome to the face-saving agreement.

"I want Europe to remain together", she said.

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