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Germany’ CSU gives Merkel ultimatum over refugees amid coalition crisis

The Christian Social Union (CSU) party of Germany’s Bavaria region, a key ally in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, has issued an ultimatum for the government to introduce restrictions on refugee arrivals in two weeks or face a real political crisis.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who serves as interior minister in Merkel’s coalition government, said during a party meeting on Monday that Merkel had until the June 28-29 European Union summit to come up with a lasting solution to the burning issue of refugees.

Seehofer said if Merkel fails to do so, he would order a shutdown of the border for refugees.

The CSU has felt the pressure over a decision by Merkel in 2015 to allow in more than a million refugees from an unprecedented influx that hit the European shores at the time. CSU leaders argue that the liberal asylum policy has affected security in Germany while it has boosted the public standing of nationalist and far-right groups.

Merkel, whose own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party scored the poorest ever results in the September general elections, has repeatedly defended her decision to accept refugees.

Merkel has admitted at the same time that there is a need for a deal that could coordinate Europe’s policy on the issue, especially at a time when the right-wing parties are on the rise in various European countries, including in Italy, a frontline nation dealing with refugees, and in Germany’s neighboring Austria, where more and more refugees are being turned away.

Reports said Merkel was to meet new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte later on Monday while she is planned to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to discuss plans for a deal on refugees in the upcoming EU summit.

Addressing her own party leadership in Berlin on Monday, Merkel said that Germany had a responsibility to help the southern European nations deal with increasing refugee arrivals.

“How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not,” Merkel said, according to participants in the CDU meeting on Monday.

In the CSU gathering in Bavaria, the party leaders echoed Seehofer’s concerns in addressing Merkel’s refugee woes.