Seehofer warns of new refugee crisis and pushes for EU solution

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Interior Minister Seehofer’s efforts to find a solution to the refugee and migration issue are causing discomfort in his own party. According to him, more commitment from all EU member states is needed – otherwise the chaotic situation of 2015 could repeat itself.

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) has warned against a greater refugee movement than in 2015 in view of the rising number of migrants on the Greek islands. “We must help our European partners more with controls at the EU’s external borders. We have left them alone for too long”, Seehofer told the newspaper “Bild am Sonntag”. “If we don’t do this, we will experience a wave of refugees like 2015 – perhaps even bigger than four years ago.”

Together with the new President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, he will “do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen again”, Seehofer continued. He had “the full support of the German Chancellor”.

Seehofer demands more commitment from EU states

Seehofer also called on EU member states to do more for Turkey. “Turkey is has taken in large numbers of refugees. That is also in our interest. Moreover, it is clear that we cannot cope with the future with the means of the past. That is why I want to further strengthen cooperation with Turkey,” he told the Welt am Sonntag.

When asked how much money Ankara should receive over and above the six billion that the EU promised to pay under the 2016 refugee pact, Seehofer said: “As German Interior Minister, I cannot make this decision alone. We will have to hold talks on this at the European level. I will do my utmost to ensure that Turkey’s performance, which is in all our interests, is adequately taken into account”.

Criticism from the Union

Seehofer’s course in refugee policy had recently caused discontent. Like parlamentary leader Ralph Brinkhaus, CDU steering committee member Mike Mohring has particular doubts about the plan to take in every fourth refugee rescued in the Mediterranean.

“The risk of the interim solution Horst Seehofer is striving for is that it will become a permanent solution,” Mohring told the newspapers of the Funke media group. “The Federal Minister of the Interior has said that this is out of the question. I can well understand the scepticism on this point”. The goal of the EU must remain “to bring the rescued back to the African coast,” Mohring, who will run as the CDU’s top candidate in Thuringia in the state elections on October 27, demanded.

EU Commissioner praises Germany

Seehofer, on the other hand, received support from Brussels. EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos rejected criticism of Seehofer. “I disagree”, Avramopoulos told the newspapers of the Funke Media Group. The work on regulations for distribution should not be seen in isolation from all other efforts. “It is our priority to reduce irregular arrivals, fight smugglers and facilitate the repatriation of irregular migrants – as well as save lives and open legal channels for those in need of protection”. According to him, solutions on a case-by-case basis were “not sustainable” for the rescue of migrants at sea. There has been progress on the issue of distribution, “also thanks to Germany, which has driven this discussion forward,” Avramopoulos said.

Whether Seehofer can bring new momentum to the push for a European solution, however, remains to be seen. The current activities of the Ministry of the Interior seem to be primarily focussed on the delicate task of patching up the existing framework and keeping the boat afloat. Meanwhile the urgency for implementing a more coherent and sustainable strategy will continue to incease.

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