German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly secured agreements with 14 European Union countries to rapidly return some asylum seekers as she seeks to end a schism in her government over migration policy.
Ms Merkel also said she wants to establish ‚Äúanchor centres‚ÄĚ to process migrants at Germany‚Äôs borders, the dpa news agency reported.
The announcements came in a letter Ms Merkel wrote to leaders of her Christian Democratic Union‚Äôs Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), as well as to her junior coalition government partner, the Social Democrats, after she attended a two-day EU summit in Brussels.
Ms Merkel is seeking to end a three-week stand-off with her hard-line interior minister Horst Seehofer, who heads the CSU.
Ms Merkel has rejected that approach, instead insisting on a European-wide solution to migration issues to preserve EU unity. The dispute has raised the possibility of an end to Germany‚Äôs decades-old conservative alliance between the CSU and Ms Merkel‚Äôs CDU if Mr Seehofer goes ahead with the unilateral move, which could bring down her government.
Both the CDU and the CSU are holding separate meetings on Sunday to discuss Ms Merkel‚Äôs latest efforts on migration and plot their next steps.
Ms Merkel on Friday came away from an EU summit with agreements from Greece and Spain to take back migrants previously registered in those countries, and an overall agreement by the 28-nation bloc to ease the pressures of migration into Europe.
The countries include Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, which have all been harsh critics of Ms Merkel‚Äôs welcoming stance to migrants, as well as Belgium, France, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.
In addition, the chancellor threw her support behind establishing large collection centres in Germany for migrants as their cases are processed.
Dpa reported the centres would be used for migrants who attempt to bypass border controls and for those whose cases do not fall under bilateral return agreements.
Whether the combination of the bilateral measures and EU agreement is enough to placate the CSU is not yet clear.
Top CSU politician Markus Soeder, Bavaria‚Äôs governor, on Saturday praised the EU agreement as more than his party had expected, but at the same time suggested that it left open the possibility of unilateral national measures as well.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Austria, chancellor Sebastian Kurz again urged a European solution to migration, warning in the Bild newspaper that if the southern German region of Bavaria undertook unilateral measures it would create a ‚Äúdomino effect‚ÄĚ as Austria and other EU nations then closed their borders one-by-one.
‚ÄúOur goal remains a joint European solution with orderly protection of the exterior borders, and centres in third countries,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThat way we can also preserve a Europe without internal borders.‚ÄĚ