Ally of Merkel's threatens legal action over border policy

  • 17/01/2016
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer (Reuters)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer (Reuters)

A prominent ally of Germany's Angela Merkel is threatening to take her government to court over its "open doors" refugee policy as political pressure grows for the chancellor to reduce the number of new arrivals.

Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer said on Saturday he would send the federal government a written request within the next two weeks to restore "orderly conditions" at the nation's borders, through which one million migrants and refugees passed last year alone.

"If it doesn't follow, the state government will have no other choice but to file a suit at the federal constitutional court," Seehofer told Der Spiegel magazine.

Seehofer has issued a series of ultimatums to Merkel in recent months to press her into taking immediate action to limit the influx of migrants, only to back down at the last minute.

His comments reflect increasing doubt among Germans about Merkel's "we can do this" mantra in the face of Europe's biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War, especially since sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve were blamed on migrants.

Merkel's popularity has dropped following the assaults, a poll showed on Friday.

Bavaria, a conservative state that borders Austria to the south, is the home of Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU) - sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - and is the main entry point for migrants and refugees.

The state's finance minister, Markus Soeder, told Der Spiegel Merkel's refugee policy was not democratically legitimised and said parliament should vote on the matter.

Senior figures from the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel's second coalition partner, have also broken ranks in recent days by challenging her welcoming approach to asylum seekers.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel joined the critical voices on Saturday. "We have to get from a chaotic to an orderly immigration," he told several regional newspapers.

He said border checks needed to be improved and refugee quotas should be introduced to maintain control over how many people come to Germany and when they arrive.

Merkel has vowed to "measurably reduce" arrivals this year, but has refused to introduce a cap, saying it would be impossible to enforce without closing German borders.