March 11, 2018 / 3:47 PM / 13 days ago

Germany's new interior minister lays down law-and-order credentials

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s new interior minister will promote a law-and-order agenda that includes pushing for more video surveillance in public areas and faster deportations of rejected asylum seekers, he said in an interview.

FILE PHOTO: Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer during a statement together with Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after coalition talks to form a new coalition government in Berlin, Germany, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Horst Seehofer, who heads Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies the Christian Social Union (CSU), told Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Germany should remain an open and liberal country.

“But when it comes to protecting citizens, we need to have a strong state,” he said.

“There must be a consensus ...that we no longer tolerate areas where the rule of law does not apply,” he added, mentioning more video surveillance and faster processing of failed asylum applicants.

Seehofer takes office in a continuation of the grand coalition of Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) that has governed Germany since 2013, which the SPD’s rank and file approved last week - nearly half year after inconclusive national elections.

Merkel, Seehofer and SPD interim leader Olaf Scholz are expected to sign their coalition agreement on Monday and present their plans for the first 100 days.

Merkel and her bloc are keenly aware that voters expect the new government - which takes office on Wednesday - to address economic, social and security concerns, and Seehofer said the partners needed to quickly implement reforms and refrain from verbal attacks.

“The motto of the grand coalition now is working diligently instead of quarrelling industriously,” he said.

But some fault lines have already emerged, with tensions over the sequencing and extent of reforms.

Seehofer is likely to clash on civil rights with the new SPD Justice Minister Katarina Barley while Merkel could end up arm-wrestling on fiscal spending and euro zone reforms with the new SPD Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

The SPD could be emboldened by rising public support.

An Emid poll released on Sunday showed the party jumped 3 points on the week to 19 percent while Merkel’s conservatives were unchanged at 33 percent.

The far right Alternative for Germany party, to which Merkel’s bloc bled support in the September election, lost two points to 13 percent.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by John Stonestreet

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