On the back of the latest round of fighting over illegal immigration, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of Bavaria’s CSU party reportedly castigated Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he “can’t work with this woman anymore.”
Horst Seehofer, a heavyweight of Bavarian and German politics, previously unveiled a new strategy called the ‘Migration Masterplan.’ It would allow German authorities to turn back refugees at its borders if they have already applied for asylum in other EU countries. But Chancellor Merkel argued against the current proposal, saying Berlin can’t unilaterally shut its borders without consulting with its European neighbors.
Merkel’s opposition to the proposal reportedly angered Seehofer. “I can’t work with this woman anymore,” he told his closest aides last Saturday in Berlin, according to a report by Welt am Sonntag. Seehofer, who heads the CSU – the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats – made the remark twice during the meeting. However, during a subsequent sit-down with all CSU members, he apparently chose not to repeat the words.
Last Wednesday, Seehofer and Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder went to the Chancellery to discuss the ‘Masterplan’ with Merkel. Both men, who champion a tougher stance on migrants, reportedly warned that the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is likely to come in dangerously close to the CSU in the upcoming state election in Bavaria.
The discussion, which lasted three and a half hours last Wednesday, did not yield any results, Welt am Sonntag reported. After Merkel argued against the plan again, Soeder told Seehofer: “This doesn’t help.” Both CSU leaders then stood up and left.
The news comes on the heels of speculation that the lingering spat between Merkel and Seehofer could lead to the fall of the fragile centrist coalition. However, the Bavarian politician himself denied putting his party on a collision course with Merkel.
“Nobody in the CSU is interested in toppling the Chancellor, dissolving the CDU/CSU partnership or blowing up the coalition [between the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats],” Seehofer told Bild newspaper. “We want to finally find a sustainable solution to the rejection of immigrants from our borders.”
Seehofer has been at odds with Merkel for a few years now, starting in 2015 when the refugee crisis began to unfold. Previously, he clashed with the chancellor on the issue of whether Islam is part of German culture, demanded that she impose limits on new arrivals, and threatened to not support her in the 2016 general election.
Struggling to avert a government crisis, Merkel has been seeking talks with her EU partners on migration, Bild reported. A meeting, reportedly scheduled to take place as early as next weekend, will see Germany, Greece, Italy, and Austria coming together in search of a solution to the sharp rise in migrant arrivals.
Seehofer plans to hold a press conference in Munich on Monday following a meeting of CSU leaders on migration, Reuters reported. Seehofer could use his power as interior minister to enforce the Masterplan and turn away migrants at the border even without the chancellor’s backing, the news agency said.