After a hiatus over the weekend, the political drama in Germany resumes today. The following report by Egri Nök discusses the standoff between Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel over the issue of open borders.
Merkel vs. Seehofer: Who Will Win?
by Egri Nök
Today Germany’s new Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer (CSU) will probably give orders to reinstate law and turn away obviously unjustified “refugees” from the border.
This would force Merkel, who is strictly opposed to that, to dismiss him — which would set loose a chain of uncontrollable events that, even though they will probably not cause her immediate resignation, will lead to it in the mid-term run.
Many speculate that this is the exact point of what Seehofer is doing.
Others speculate that this conflict is just being staged, to secure Seehofer’s CSU the Bavarian elections in October 2018, or even that it has been arranged between Seehofer and Merkel. I will look at how plausible that is (in short: not very).
We were the first internationally to sense the emerging conflict while it was still unfolding last Wednesday. It is simple, but some of Angela Merkel’s own people seem so stunned that they have difficulties understanding what is going on — in an interview with BBC, an MP of Angela Merkel’s CDU party says on Saturday that he does not know “what the essence of the disagreement between the Chancellor and Mr. Seehofer was”, and that it was probably just a power struggle.
The international media, particularly the British, are blowing it up as a power struggle that is putting Europe and stability at risk, which is following the line of Angela Merkel’s spin doctors (via the German press agency dpa).
But the essence of the disagreement couldn’t be simpler:
Seehofer had been working on a catalogue of measures to gain control of the refugee crisis and the influx of illegal immigration into Germany, dubbed “Master Plan”, and Merkel is rejecting three of its 63 points. To turn away at the border “refugees” who demand entry to Germany but:
- have already applied for asylum in another safe European country
- whose asylum applications have been thoroughly reviewed and rejected and they have left the country and are now coming back for a second try
- have, in the past, received a ten-year-ban on re-entering Germany (rarely handed out and only for first degree murder)
For a detailed record of events prior to last Wednesday, please see our article our earlier reporting.
On Wednesday night Merkel, Seehofer, and the new Bavarian president Söder (the last two both CSU) held a long meeting and offered Merkel compromises. In Söder’s and Seehofer’s account, they suggested that the measures be installed at the border, but then be suspended as soon she as finds the “European” solution that she so favors (and hasn’t been able to find for three years).
But Merkel staunchly rejected that — she absolutely did not want to turn away anyone at the border — until Söder said to Seehofer “this is pointless”, and they both left. In their accounts of the discussion, she appears to have completely lost touch with reality.
Much to their surprise, early next morning, Thursday, the press (via dpa) reported that Merkel had offered them compromises, but they had rejected them — an outright lie. According to this version, Seehofer allegedly said, “I can’t work with this woman anymore”.
Before noon that day, the Bundestag terminated their session to give CDU and CSU the time to hold emergency meetings.
Reading the account of the CDU fraction meeting is disturbing:
The mood is absolutely different from the fraction meeting two days before where the critics of Merkel’s course were leading. On Thursday the fraction members opened their requests to speak — strengthening Merkel — with the remark that they were sorry for not speaking out back on Tuesday, and were therefore responsible for the misperception that the chancellor didn’t have support in her fraction anymore.
The feeling of witnessing a historic moment seized some CDU MPs. Some fraction members raised the pathos of the moment by making comparisons to the near-split of the CDU-CSU Union under Franz-Josef-Strauß and Helmut Kohl, or even citing the final days of the Weimar Republic.
Some CDU MPs are stunned by hints from their colleagues in the CSU that of course they want to keep the union of the two parties — but that in order to do so, a change of the CDU leadership was necessary. CDU MP Kees de Vries provokes the opposite reaction when he calls to Merkel that he hopes that she will remain “our chancellor” until the end of the legislative period. This prompts spontaneous applause.
Feelings are running high in the CSU, too. A CSU MP yells at a CSU colleague, in front of waiting journalists:
You are all nuts! Merkel doesn’t care for the German people, Merkel doesn’t care for the MPs! But you believe she’s the last super-European!
Reports from the CSU fraction meeting say that support for Seehofer was unanimous, and that many MPs demanded that action be taken immediately. But in Seehofer’s opinion the issue was too serious to rush, so he wanted to discuss it in depth on Monday with the Bavarian CSU MPs in Munich and get their consent, too.
The conflict had, in the meantime, found its way into the press, and depending on where you look, the polls show 80%, even more than 90% support for the Interior Minister.
Late Thursday afternoon, Alexander Dobrindt of the CSU — whom readers might remember from the video of Viktor Orbán’s visit to Germany in January that Vlad Tepes subtitled — told the waiting press:
Parts of Seehofer’s “Master Plan” were “the direct responsibility of the Federal Interior Minister” and should be implemented without waiting for consent in Brussels.
It was urgently necessary to turn away refugees who were already registered in other EU countries, “to reinstate order at the borders”. This step was covered by German and European law.
This is the last official announcement that was made. We will hear the next official announcement on Monday — today.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Germany is holding its breath. When, for about an hour, the false news spread that Seehofer had left the government, the stock market and the Euro dropped for a moment. On social media, the first reaction was enthusiastic — only 25% of the electorate voted for Merkel — but no one knows what to expect.
Will Merkel dismiss Seehofer? This will break the government coalition — and ultimately, her. But in the interim, she could form a minority government with the Greens — they are already champing at the bit — and do even more damage to the country. So even the people who wish her gone are anxious.
Or will she find a “compromise” that Seehofer can accept, so that the coalition can be saved? At this hour [early on Monday morning CET], she is working frantically to find some sort of solution. She is trying to win time until a EU summit at the end of June, and has set up emergency meetings on Monday and for the rest of the week with other European leaders. Leaders who have already stated that they want to work with Seehofer, and whose countries are already practicing the policies that she so much opposes.
Is this all just staged, to secure both Merkel and Seehofer power? That does not seem very plausible. In the coalition negotiations in January of this year, the Social Democrats demanded “family reunification” for 390,000 Syrians in Germany. Their cases were already granted last year. Seehofer terminated this and negotiated the Social Democrats down to a maximum of 1,000 people per month. He is not a globalist, and opposes Islamization — the polar opposite of Merkel in every respect.
Merkel wouldn’t have retained power for the past thirteen years if she weren’t a ruthless strategist, and she is working on getting out of this situation without having to break the coalition. She might be able to pull another trick out of her sleeve, but her downfall has begun.
As the Neue Zürcher Zeitung put it, when Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stated that they would like to work with Seehofer:
“Europe is beginning to stand united — but not in a way that Merkel might like.”