Germany’s Seehofer says EU ‘patronizing’ eastern members on migrants

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has accused the European Union of adopting a patronizing stance in talks with eastern European members about the distribution of migrants.

FILE PHOTO: Leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer during a statement before the start of coalition talks at the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party headquarters in Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Mang/File Photo

Seehofer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CSU Bavarian allies, made the comments in an interview with German Sunday newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag, days after sparking a public outcry by saying Islam did not belong to Germany.

The former Bavarian premier is keen to show his party is tough on migration abuses ahead of October state elections in Bavaria, to win back voters who defected in large numbers to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sept. 24 national election. The AfD has also been critical of the EU.

Seehofer called for continued German border controls as long as the EU is unable to protect its external borders, and criticized the European Commission for what he called a “moralizing” tone toward eastern European states who have refused to take in asylum seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

Such an attitude was “counter-productive,” Seehofer said, adding, “Every country has its pride.”

The conservative politician, whose party has long been to the right of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, urged the EU to stop making decisions “over the heads” of member states.

“The EU commission is often patronizing,” he told the newspaper. “We need to put more energy into dialogue on the distribution of refugees. If we keep negotiating patiently, a majority of countries will support (it).”

Other countries could contribute in other ways, perhaps by sending more personnel to the EU borders, or by contributing more for joint border patrols, he said.

Seehofer’s remarks could exacerbate tensions in the uneasy new “grand coalition” between Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats.

Merkel firmly rebuffed Seehofer last week, saying that Germany’s 4 million Muslims belonged to the country, as did their religion. Leading SPD members also criticized his remarks on Islam.

Johannes Kahrs, a member of parliament and spokesman for the conservative wing of the SPD, accused Seehofer of using his new ministerial post to campaign for the CSU in Bavaria.

“Building bridges and not digging trenches is the responsibility of all decent Germans,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

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