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Merkel & Seehofer defuse tensions over immigration policy

Merkel & Seehofer defuse tensions over immigration policy

Germany's Internior Minister Horst Seehofer (L) and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The center-right leader needs the backing of both her junior coalition partner and fellow European Union states if the plan is to succeed.

Alternatively it could break up the two parties' decades-long partnership, depriving Merkel of her majority in parliament and pitching Germany into uncharted political waters.

After almost 13 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy, many experts had expected the 63-year-old chancellor would not serve her whole term, especially given the clause in the coalition's deal allowing the parties to review progress in two years.

Her turnaround was prompted by her Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, who has demanded that migrants at the border must have papers before advancing past the German welcome mat.

"So they agreed in principle to a concept that was denied by the SPD and the former grand coalition in 2015 already, and Merkel at that time actually backed this agreement. She is here to stay".

Nevertheless, the anti-refugee, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) was propelled into federal parliament for the first time previous year by outrage over immigration, leading to months of paralysis while Merkel struggled to put together a workable coalition.

Merkel later revealed that the compromise entailed setting up transit centers on the border with Austria, to hold new arrivals who had already been recorded as having previously arrived in other European Union countries.

Merkel rejected such unilateral German measures and pledged to reach bilateral deals instead with other European Union states.

One day into the job he caused a headline-grabbing stir by declaring that "Islam is not part of Germany", contradicting Merkel and rekindling a divisive debate about cultural identity.

The CSU had threatened tighter border controls which Merkel rejected, insisting on a European solution.

"We now have a clear agreement how to prevent illegal immigration across the Austrian-German border in future", said Seehofer, whose CSU is the traditional Bavaria state ally of Merkel's CDU party.

In a meeting with his party leaders on Sunday night, Seehofer offered to resign from his ministerial role and party leadership, reports said.

The last two weeks have laid bare the poisoned nature of their relationship.

In a sign of mounting frustration, Seehofer reportedly told CSU colleagues that he "travelled especially to Berlin but the chancellor is moving zero point zero" per cent with her stance.

Joerg Kraemer, chief economist at Commerzbank said much trust had been destroyed.

"We can achieve a lot in a government, but not outside", Soeder said.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the CSU leadership, said that Merkel's rejections of compromises submitted by Seehofer suggested she was happy to see him go.

The Seehofer-Merkel meeting is scheduled for 5pm CEST.

"And then Chancellor Merkel is entitled to dismiss her minister of interior". CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the party believed a European solution was necessary.

"The CDU does not tend to ditch its leaders unless it realises the Titanic is sinking", said Jaeger.

She could also call a vote of no confidence.

Seehofer is threatening to resign amid a growing divide with Chancellor Merkel over migration policy.

On Tuesday, the AfD tried to capitalise on dissatisfaction with the migrant deal.

Ms Merkel's new position immediately drew criticism from those on the left. Its most recent poll put the AfD up half a percentage point at 16.5 percent, up from nearly 13 percent in September.

Otherwise, a new election is possible.

"Now, she's just switched camps".

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