Monday

19th Feb 2018

Refugee split leaves German coalition deal hanging

  • The parties under Merkel and Schulz suffered massive losses under last year's German federal election (Photo: European Parliament)

Germany has yet to form a government given, in part, outstanding divisions over migration despite intense talks over the weekend.

Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU), remain at odds with Martin Schulz's Social Democrats (SPD) on a family reunification policy for refugees.

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The conservative bloc oppose allowing refugees to bring over their families. The centre-left socialists are in favour.

The coalition talks ended in the early hours of Monday (29 January) with an aim to reach agreement at the start of next month.

"It drives me crazy that we can't find a humane solution to this issue with a party that has the word Christian in its name," Lars Castellucci, an SPD MP, was quoted as saying in the Financial Times newspaper.

Some 278,000 refugees in Germany were given a subsidiary protection status, which restricts their options to bring over relatives.

The reduced status was imposed following the large inflow of refugees in 2015 and is set to expire in mid-March. Merkel's bloc want to extend the March deadline.

The move was made, in part, to appease a right-wing base that helped make the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) the third largest party.

Earlier this month, the AfD floated a bill to impose a flat out ban on family reunification.

Despite scraping by with a federal election win four months ago, a weakened Merkel has been unable to form a grand coalition. Her bloc is also seeking to impose an annual refugee cap of up to 220,000.

The September election result had delivered a historic blow for both the conservatives and the socialists.

The SPD, itself struggling with internal divisions, appeared to throw her a lifeline last week when they agreed to begin official talks.

But should the talks fail, then Merkel may have to opt for a minority coalition or risk a possible second German federal election.

Her previous attempt late last year to form a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens had also collapsed.

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Christian Democrats and Social Democrats were still negotiating in the early hours of Wednesday. But the already agreed chapter on Europe is the "most Europeanised approach for years", says one expert.

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