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26 Apr, 2016 23:00

‘Legal action still on table’ as Merkel dismisses Bavaria’s refugee policy criticism with 3mo delay

Bavarian leader, who threatened to sue the federal government if it failed to stem the influx of refugees, has finally received Chancellor Merkel’s reply in which she, after having waited for the crisis to slightly ease, dismissed the accusations as “unfounded.”

Horst Seehofer, Bavarian Minister President and the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) – the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – sent a letter to Berlin in January demanding a drastic change in the government’s refugee policy.

If the government failed to reduce the number of new arrivals to 200,000 annually, the Bavarian leader threatened to potentially sue the federal government in the constitutional court, the highest legal authority in Germany.

After a three-month delay, the Chancellor’s answer finally reached Seehofer on Monday, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. Although the content of the three-page letter remained undisclosed, with the federal government saying it would like “to keep the correspondence in secret,” some key points have been seen by the newspaper. 

“The government pursued the goal of finding a sustainable solution to the refugee crisis,” Merkel reportedly wrote. It meant stemming the flow of refugees coming to the EU while carrying on with “Europe’s humanitarian obligations” at the same time, according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Merkel’s letter mentioned the February donor conference which took place in London, where Germany pledged €2.3 billion ($2.6 billion) aid to refugee camps in the countries neighboring Syria, which helped fight the causes of the crisis.

The German Chancellor also went on by referring to the EU-Turkey deal that “deprived the smugglers the Aegean from their business and significantly reduced illegal migration from Turkey to Europe.”

The letter also discusses legal framework of tackling the crisis, stressing that “the federal government is not restricted by law on the use of certain instruments.” The three-page response ends with compliments towards “prudence and determination” of Bavaria for taking a great number of refugees last year.

The Bavarian PM said he “has not read it yet” adding that “it is not the case that we get especially hectic whenever a letter comes from the Chancellery.”

Seehofer said he will read the letter “in complete calm,” according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung. But his staff say that the Chancellor’s response has not met their expectations. “Relatively little was said” to address Seehofer’s “central arguments,” the newspaper wrote.

The Bavarian government will now “discuss the issue then think about what is to be done,” Seehofer said, but legal action against Berlin authorities “is of course on the table.”

At the meantime, insiders in the state government believe there is a cynical motive for Merkel’s letter arriving so late, suggesting to Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the chancellor deliberately waited until refugee numbers dropped before writing a response.

Bavaria, the richest and the southernmost German state, has been a gateway for the heavy influx of refugees throughout last year as the majority of new arrivals came into the country through the southern border with Austria.