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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

Angela Merkel holds crisis talks with coalition partners as migration row intensifies

The German chancellor is battling division at home and in the EU

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, awaits the arrival of Pedro Sanchez, Spain's prime minister. Bloomberg
Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, awaits the arrival of Pedro Sanchez, Spain's prime minister. Bloomberg

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold crunch talks with her coalition partners on Tuesday in an effort to resolve a row over migration, which threatens to bring down her government.

Mrs Merkel is at odds with her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union party (CSU) who wants stricter border controls in Germany.

Mr Seehofer has said he will defy Mrs Merkel and start turning migrants away at the border if she fails to reach deals on migration with European Union leaders at a two-day summit beginning on Thursday.

Meanwhile, industry leaders have called on the three coalition parties to address their internal divisions, which they said were affecting the German economy.

Dieter Kempf, head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said he was concerned about “an increasing number of differences in the central questions between the coalition parties", in comments published in the Sueddeutsche daily newspaper, while trades association president Hans Peter Wollseifer warned that “power and party political tactics must not get the upper hand”.

He added that there would be "difficult social and economic consequences that cannot be estimated", if Mrs Merkel’s grand coalition, made up of the Christian Democrats Union, the CSU and the Social Democrats, collapsed.

If Mr Seehofer does start to enforce the Dublin regulations and tighten border controls, this would mark a reversal of CDU leader Mrs Merkel’s policy on migration. Many believe she would have no choice but to sack him, putting an end to her alliance with the CSU.

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Mrs Merkel fears that if Germany starts turning away migrants who have registered in other EU states, other nations in the bloc will do the same. This would mean migrants would return to already-overwhelmed countries such as Italy and Greece, which are the point of entry into the EU from the Middle East and North Africa.

The chancellor met EU leaders on Sunday for emergency talks on the matter. However, she failed to secure a deal at the mini-summit, which was snubbed by four Eastern European countries with anti-migration governments.

Mrs Merkel will host talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Berlin and with European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

Divisions in the 28-member bloc were brought into focus during the weekend as Italy’s new populist government refused to allow a rescue ship carrying 230 migrants to dock on its shores.

Spain said it would not offer haven to the Lifeline vessel, while German lawmakers warned of deteriorating conditions on board.

Spanish Economic Development Minister Jose Luis Abalos said on Monday that his country, which recently allowed another stranded NGO ship, the Aquarius, to dock, could not "become the sea-rescue organisation for all of Europe".

Mr Abalos called on states to reach an EU-wide solution to deal with the high numbers of displaced people arriving every year.