Seehofer gives ultimatum amid revolt against Merkel's migrant policy

Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer on Tuesday issued an ultimatum and a veiled threat against Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding his powerful voice to a growing revolt against her policy to keep Germany's borders open.

"We want a solution with you, but the emphasis is on 'we want a solution' - that is crucial," Seehofer said at a conference of his Christian Social Union (CSU), Merkel's Bavarian ally that has become a thorn in her side by repeatedly attacking her welcoming stance towards refugees.

He added that Merkel would have to demonstrate a marked reduction of arriving asylum seekers - most of whom enter through Bavaria's southern border with Austria - by March, but failed to elaborate on what would happen if she failed to do so.

The powerful Bavarian politician briefly fainted during his impassioned address, but continued speaking from a sitting position. The session ended with a standing ovation, attendants told dpa.

Seehofer is part of a growing roster of politicians in Merkel's coalition calling for a radical change of course on migration including a cap on the number of migrants entering Germany in 2016 and a partial closure of its borders.

Forty-four lawmakers from her alliance composed a letter to the chancellor decrying her policy course and urging a return to "the strict implementation of existing laws" - turning back those wishing to enter Germany via a safe third country.

Others continued to support her course, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arguing on Tuesday that closing Germany's borders would not solve the country's refugee crisis.

"I guarantee you that [a solution to the crisis] will not be achieved through a closure of the border," Steinmeier told foreign journalists in response to comments from Merkel's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt that border closures were inevitable.

Steinmeier added that a long-term solution could only be brought about through a refugee resettlement programme across the European Union, joint efforts to secure the bloc's outer borders and the fulfilment of a 3-billion-euro (3.3-billion-dollar) aid pledge to Turkey.

Steinmeier's comments come after Dobrindt told Bavarian daily Muenchner Merkur that Germany could no longer show the world a "friendly face," and that if the number of new arrivals was not reduced in the near future, Germany would not be able to avoid border closures.

Asked outright whether such a move was on the cards, Steinmeier said Germany would have to wait for the outcome of Austrian consultations on border policies before a decision is made. "We have to know what the Austrians will do," said Steinmeier.

Germany took in 1.1 million migrants in 2015, the vast majority of those to have entered Europe over the past year.

Last update: Tue, 19/01/2016 - 18:02
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