Meets seehofer trump?
Does seehofer meet trump?

The Bayerischer Hof hotel hosts the Munich Security Conference every year. Photo: Harald Dettenborn. License: CC BY 3.0

Merkel, Pence and Mattis at the Munich Security Conference

The Bavarian State Chancellery has neither confirmed nor denied a report in Der Spiegel that Minister President Horst Seehofer plans to meet with new U.S. President Donald Trump. Instead, the general message was that it was "The Prime Minister announced that he would try not to let the thread of conversation with his international partners wear away", but concrete meetings will only be decided upon when "if there are concrete dates".

Earlier, Seehofer had praised Trump’s speed, but added that he does not agree with everything the U.S. president is doing and, among other things, considers the entry moratoriums wrong. After many German media reported the praise without the restrictive complement, the CSU leader criticized at a joint press conference with Angela Merkel: "We don’t have to debate about fakes from Russia or elsewhere, we have enough in Germany" (cf. Seehofer officially expresses support for Merkel). At the same press conference, the prime minister also said that he could confirm that Bavaria "belongs to Germany – at least for the moment" – with which he earned an icy reaction from Merkel.

Bavaria’s own foreign policy

The Bavarian State Chancellery confirmed that Seehofer will fly to Moscow next month to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such a meeting already took place a year ago and was criticized at the time by politicians from the other two federal government coalition parties, the CDU and SPD, as taking a position against the Chancellor (cf. Seehofer in Moscow).

Seehofer said in this regard that it was "It goes without saying that in this troubled world one has to remain in conversation". Moreover "no sensible politician would have an interest in having sanctions in place permanently", because the Bavarian economy’s business with Russia has fallen by 50 percent since 2014.

The independent Bavarian aubenpolitik, which Seehofer pursues not only with his meetings with Putin, has a long tradition. It is also a tradition that this aubenpolitik is conducted with fewer taboos than that of the Federal Republic: In the 1980s, for example, the then Bavarian Minister President Franz-Josef Straub fiddled a billion-euro loan with Erich Honecker and made headlines when he himself flew a private plane to Moscow to meet with Soviet state and party leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

As early as 1975, he had traveled to Red China and had not only been "rough chairman" Mao received, but also the "rough wall" He said that he had admired them ever since he saw pictures of them in a school book as a child. At the time, part of the German press criticized Straub’s trips to the Red East, another his contacts with controversial politicians in Togo, Sud Africa and Chile.

Edmund Stoiber, who succeeded Straub after an interim period of Max Streibl, continued this policy of his teacher and set his own course when, against the will of the rest of the German CDU, he advised the Austrian Christian Democrat Wolfgang Schussel in 1999 to form a coalition with the FPo, which was still led by Jorg Haider at the time.

Munich Security Conference with Peter Thiel and Boris Johnson

At the Munich Security Conference, held this year on 17., 18. and 19. In any case, Seehofer and Trump will not meet yet: According to the organizers, the U.S. president is sending only his deputy, Mike Pence, his defense secretary, James Mattis, and his homeland security secretary, John Kelly, to the Bavarian state capital. In addition, about a dozen members of the U.S. Congress (including John McCain, one of the most outspoken opponents of the new U.S. president), Microsoft founder Bill Gates and German-born Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, who supported Trump in the election campaign (cf. Peter Thiel: Farewell to the "Dogmas of Reaganism"?).

Participants from other countries include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who on Friday publicly offered asylum to dissidents from Western European countries.

Merkel to talk with Tunisian prime minister about asylum centers

Seehofer visited Orban in Budapest last year. Both politicians support plans by Social Democratic Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil and Christian Democratic Austrian Aubenminister Sebastian Kurz to set up facilities outside the EU where asylum seekers would have to file their asylum applications and await their asylum procedures (cf. CSU election campaign demand: asylum processing in Africa).

Merkel plans to discuss such asylum centers next week with Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Khahed, whom she expects to meet in Berlin on Tuesday. Earlier, Bundestag faction leader Thomas Oppermann was the first leading SPD politician to speak out in favor of such asylum centers outside the EU.