The chairman of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) said on Monday he was ready to turn away at the German border migrants registered in other European Union states if Chancellor Angela Merkel does not seal an EU migrants deal later this month.
In an extraordinary move, the CSU - facing a tough regional election in October - has threatened to defy her and on Monday go ahead with plans for Germany to send back migrants already registered in other European Union states.
Merkel said she will hold talks on bilateral agreements with other European countries at and around a June 28-29 EU summit.
Merkel's welcome to refugees also infuriated Seehofer and his CSU, the sister party of her Christian Democrats in the southern state of Bavaria, which became the main entry point for most migrants.
"We want to support Italy's desire for solidarity, and also hope that Germany receives understanding when it comes to European solidarity on the question of migration", she said in Berlin.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies were expected Monday to decide how far to push in a dispute with the German leader over migration, a conflict that has escalated into a threat to her government. Merkel opposes such unilateral action, arguing that it would increase pressure on Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece and weaken the entire 28-nation European Union.
Seehofer, whose party is more socially conservative than Merkel's, has always been a critic of the chancellor's immigration policies, particularly her decision to open Germany's borders at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. Still, polls suggest that its absolute majority in the Bavarian state legislature is in danger in the October 14 state election and it is being challenged on the right by the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.
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"No one in the CSU is interested in bringing the chancellor down, or dissolving the CDU/CSU parliamentary partnership or destroying the coalition", Seehofer told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, adding that he did not want the asylum row to endanger the coalition government which is less than 100 days old.
She said she would report back July 1 on the results of her negotiations, and that as far as she's concerned it's not yet clear what will happen if there's no European deal on the divisive topic.
Members of her own conservative party are split, with the more conservative wing backing Seehofer and the more centrist members throwing their weight behind the chancellor. A quota system, agreed two years ago, would have distributed migrants from these states to other European Union countries.
Seehofer said his party was keen to find a way to limit the number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany.
His proposals were a surprise to many - a few months ago, Seehofer appeared to rule out rejecting people at the border, calling at the time for detention centers to house asylum seekers while their claims were processed. The two conservative parties govern Germany in a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats.
Seehofer and Merkel have long had an awkward relationship. Monday's compromise means he can introduce immediate expulsion for one subset of migrants.
US President Donald Trump has blamed migrants in Europe for what he inaccurately described as a rise in crime in Germany and for violently changing the culture.
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