Migrant feud casts shadow as Macron and Merkel seek EU roadmap

A reversal of her 2015 open-door migrant policy would be a huge blow to Merkel's authority

Merkel has said she is "favourable" to a French call to create a European Intervention Initiative of forces which could be deployed rapidly to deal with crises outside the framework of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The row threatens to scupper Merkel's three-month-old coalition and limits her capacity for agreeing to far-reaching euro zone reforms, of which many in her conservative bloc are skeptical.

Merkel stressed Monday that she doesn't want to see Germany unilaterally turn back migrants at its borders, as Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has been advocating.

Several high profile crimes by migrants - including the 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker as well as the recent rape-murder of a teenage girl allegedly by an Iraqi - have also helped to fuel anger.

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Conte, who was visiting Germany for the first time since assuming office on June 1, said Italy wanted changes to European Union immigration rules to ensure other European Union countries share the burden of handling refugees.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who also leads the CSU, may be tempted to use his powers to implement his party's call for more powers to turn away refugees registered in other European Union states. The latter controls the powerful Interior Ministry and was threatening Monday to use that authority to block asylum seekers who have registered in another European country from entering Germany.

Seehofer's "masterplan" on immigration was meant to be the showpiece of the CSU's tough stance against new arrivals. His party holds a leadership meeting Monday which could authorize Seehofer to push through his demand. A last-minute reprieve gives Merkel until July 1 to convince fellow European leaders to come up with a comprehensive policy to seal Europe's borders to unbridled migration. While the CSU is widely expected to win that vote, it faces a strong challenge from the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD.

There are also migrant camps in Libya run by the Tripoli government where the European Union pays the United Nations agencies for migration (IOM) and refugees (UNHCR) to help resettle people to Europe legally or return them home further south in Africa, rather than have them try to reach Europe. We must always do more to fight criminality.

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On migration, Merkel's insistence on finding common European solutions to reducing migrant numbers and other issues has met stiff resistance in her own conservative bloc, leading to a showdown over the last week with her interior minister who has insisted some categories of migrants should be turned away at Germany's borders.

A European solution "doesn't convince me", said Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soeder in a June 14 Bild Zeitung interview. About 700,000 people sought asylum in EU countries previous year, down 44 per cent from 2016, according to figures released Monday by the European Asylum Support Agency.

The move sparked a clash between France and Italy as immigration also triggered a domestic crisis for Merkel, a leader already weakened by her decision in 2015 to keep open German borders to a mass influx of more than one million refugees.

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