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Angela Merkel hopes new EU migrant agreements will help heal rift in her coalition

Angela Merkel hopes new EU migrant agreements will help heal rift in her coalition
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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that the European Union’s new plan to regulate immigration and agreements she reached with key countries address the issues that have caused a rift in her coalition government.

But Merkel could not say for sure whether the agreements would be enough to resolve the conservative schism that could bring down the government. Her Christian Democratic Party and its governing partner, the Christian Social Union, had separate meetings scheduled to discuss where they stand.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who heads the Bavarian-only CSU, wants Germany to turn away some asylum-seekers at the country’s borders, but the chancellor has insisted on Europe-wide solutions.

“The sum total of everything we have agreed upon has the same effect” as what Seehofer has demanded, Merkel said in an interview with ZDF television. “That is my personal opinion. The CSU must naturally decide that for itself.”

Germany’s dpa news agency, citing unidentified people present at the CSU meeting, reported that Seehofer told the forum he thinks the measures do not adequately accomplish what he is seeking.

Seehofer, whose party faces a state election in the fall, has threatened to turn away at the borders migrants whose asylum requests Germany already rejected or who already sought asylum elsewhere in Europe.

Merkel has rejected that approach, saying Germany needs to address migration more broadly to preserve EU unity. If Seehofer goes ahead with his policies, the dispute could end the decades-old conservative alliance between the CSU and Merkel’s CDU.

Merkel and Seehofer met Saturday night for two hours. The German leader would not comment Sunday on the outcome of the talks. She also would not speculate on whether she might fire him or if the issue could lead to a government confidence vote in parliament.

She said she would wait and see what the leadership of the two parties decides “and then we will see what comes next, step for step.”

Merkel reiterated her position that if countries start turning migrants away at national borders unilaterally, it would cause neighbouring countries to close their borders and jeopardize the border-free movement the Europe’s so-called Schengen-zone.

She said the decision by leaders of European Union countries Friday to strengthen the 28-nation bloc’s exterior borders and her proposal for “anchor centres” to process migrants at Germany’s borders would work better.

“I want Europe to remain together,” she said. “That is why the unified action of Europe is so important to me.”

Merkel also secured agreement from Greece and Spain to take back from Germany migrants who previously registered in those countries. She said 14 other nations had given verbal assent to work toward similar deals.

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